Race Recap – 32nd Skechers Performance LA Marathon

Race Recap – 32nd Skechers Performance LA Marathon

I find it SO hard to believe that a week ago, I ran my third marathon—and it ended up being a sub 4:00 one as well! So many things went well with this training cycle, and even though the race is over, this particular marathon has given me the encouragement to keep pushing my training to the next level and conquering more goals associated with this distance.

In the days leading up to the race, I actually wasn’t too hyped up for it. I had other things on my mind (lab work + lab “social” life), but I still made time to go down to the expo at the convention center late Friday afternoon on race weekend.

My third marathon expo.
My third marathon expo.

It was really just a routine visit. I wasn’t too excited about sticking around. To keep up with tradition, I found and photographed my name on the runner’s wall, picked up my race bib/shirt, and walked around the booths for just long enough to gather some freebies.

Trying to find/get all the samples I can.
Trying to find/get all the samples I can.

I didn’t gather much despite it being a MARATHON expo (just a couple mini Larabars and a coconut water), but one of my favorite booths was Clif bar’s. They had samples of their newest nut butter-filled bars and ginger ale/spearmint shot bloks!

Hello, Clif!
Hello, Clif!

After taking a picture with my bib at one of the booths, I decided to head home. I was actually feeling pretty hungry so the “carbo-loading”, you could say, commenced that night—with a Spicy Lentil Wrap from Trader Joe’s.

spicy_lentil_Wrap
Friday night turn down 😴 with a Spicy Lentil wrap from Trader Joe’s. I put this right up there with the grilled eggplant wrap!

Tahini sauce brings everything up a level, just sayin’.

The day before the race was a relaxing one, but because I was with E in Glendale, we did plenty of walking. I did try to keep hydrated and made sure to get home early enough to set aside my stuff for race morning and get into bed by 8:30pm.

I woke up the next morning at 3:30am (yes, it’s true), got my race gear together, and called for a Lyft since the rest of my teammates were taking a ride share service/staying at a hotel near the start with family. From Santa Monica, the drive was less than 20 min.

I got to the start with a good 2.5 hours to spare before we had to toe the start line. I had plenty of time to collect some free shot bloks and Clif bars, fuel up with “breakfast”, use the restroom, and warm-up. It was still very breezy and cool outside, so I stayed warm by huddling in a corner of one of the open women’s restrooms.

Waiting at Dodger's Stadium...
Waiting at Dodger’s Stadium…

I was waiting solo for a long while…my teammates did not show up until about 5:30am. Even then, it took me a while to find/get to them at the seats on the ground level. There were a a few of us who met at this point, and after a group picture, we immediately went to bag check and then the start.

I decided to start in the open corral with three of my teammates since I wanted to pace with someone from the beginning. Looking back, I feel like this strategy helped me immensely in getting that sub 4:00. It took us a while to get to a sustainable race pace since we were slowed down by the crowds of the open corral, but once we made it past downtown, I kept up with one of my female teammates for the majority of the race.

Everything felt great for the first half of the race. We were running down Sunset and I felt comfortable enough to talk with my teammate at an 8:47/mi pace. Once we made a turn in Hollywood however, things started to shift.

I felt a sharp pain in my right foot as we made our way down a steep downhill. I had a feeling that I got my first black (big) toenail, and despite knowing this, I tried to ignore it for sanity’s sake.

The next slip-up was my fueling strategy. I was so focused on hydration that I wasn’t sure when to start chewing on my bloks. In my last two marathons, I busted out the plastic bag between miles 11-13, but this time, I was more concerned about keeping up with my teammate. I also didn’t feel too hungry (in fact, my stomach felt a little bit “mixed”…in that, a bathroom stop would have been nice).

When we reached Beverly Hills, I began to second guess my earlier actions of not fueling up. I was starting to feel slightly fatigued, and felt like I had to push quite a bit to keep holding on with my teammate. I surprisingly managed to make it through miles 17-20 without giving up or writhing on Rodeo Dr!

Once we reached UCLA/West LA territory though, we were hitting the Mile 20 mark. My teammate took off, but I listened to my body and just kept my pace. I stopped to take out my bloks and began to fuel up at this point.

Once I reached Mile 21, I felt a little bit better. Mile 22 was when we began to approach Brentwood/San Vicente—the last four miles of the race towards the SaMo finish! Honestly, this was the worst part of the race for me (up until 25.5!!) because I felt tired (mentally mostly), and irritated by anyone that said we were “almost there”. My pace wavered in the 8:50/mi range until it settled at 8:55/mi. I didn’t want it to dip into the 9:00/mi range, so I made sure to keep my walking breaks incredibly short.

By the time I got to Ocean Ave., I tried to let the crowds around me give me the final push I needed to finish fiercely. The finish line felt incredibly far away, but once I hit 25.5, I started to kick things up and go, go, go! The shot bloks were finally kicking in I suppose! When I crossed the line, I had run the race at a solid time of 3:53:57. I didn’t know of this time exactly until I read a series of texts from my Dad since he had been tracking me the entire run.

Bag check was much better this year!
Bag check was much better this year!

I was able to slow down to a walk, gather a medal and my gear at bag check, huddle up with a heat sheet, and take some fun post-race photos. I also collected as many protein bars as my arms could carry, and met up with my teammates at our designated family reunion area meeting spot.

People around me were still in a daze...
People around me were still in a daze…

I waited with my team for about an hour and a half just to congratulate, commiserate, and photograph the moment. The teammate I had ran with up until mile 20 ran a 3:46 marathon, and considering it was her first, she did a great job.

All of us took the train back to our destinations, and I got off pretty quickly. It felt so nice to be able to get back home at a decent time, unlike how it was the past two years fighting traffic to get to downtown! Now I had enough time to attend to my battle scars…

One ripe blister and gunmetal-polished toenail, came right up!
One ripe blister and gunmetal-polished toenail, came right up!

At least this small gem reminded me that I just did something pretty amazing that morning??

3rd time's a charm!
3rd time’s a charm!

Out of all the 26.2 distances I’ve raced, this one was the most painful, but also the most accomplishing. I had a goal, and luckily was able to meet it. It was a challenge, but a challenge worth giving up a smooth heel and big toe nail for. And if I only want to get better and faster at this monstrous distance, it’s only going to get more eventful from here!

Have you ever run a marathon/had a great marathon experience?

Would you ever consider running a marathon?

Have you ever had a black toe nail?

Race Recap: 30th ASICS LA Marathon

Race Recap: 30th ASICS LA Marathon

Ever since Sunday, I’ve been in ultimate bliss. Is that normal though? After all, I did subject myself to non-stop running for 4+ hours.

But yeah, I’d say it was a life-changing experience. No regrets here.

 The light at the end of the tunnel: sights seen after my marathon.
The light at the end of the tunnel: sights seen after my marathon.

The countdown to the race began the day before, since I had to make it to the expo at the LA Convention Center to grab by race packet and bib. Since the expo opened at 9am that morning, I wanted to get there as early as possible, and walked to the convention center from my apartment an hour earlier to account for waiting time, etc. 

I came in through a different entrance, and so even though I saw the “Welcome Runners” sign from a distance…

enteringtheexpo

…I was redirected to line up outside through another entrance.

waitinginline

Even though the line looked incredibly long and made me wish I had come even earlier (or perhaps the day before…), the line started to move quickly once the doors “officially” opened at 9am.

Expo business went about as usual: I got my bib, race shirt, and made my way through the Asics pop-up shop in order to get to the actual vendor booths (and free samples!).

checkingoutexpo

I wasn’t able to find much in terms of take-home samples, but I did stop to write a note on the “memory wall”, check out the course route printed on another wall, and find my name mixed with other runners’ names on yet another wall…

la_marathon_expo

From the freebies I did manage to collect, I was able to grab some Nuun tablets, a free Megabus shirt, and some Larabar minis. The Clif bar tent had plenty of sample stations set up, but since they weren’t actually giving out packaged bars from what I could tell (just cut-up bars on toothpicks), I didn’t think it was worth standing in line. Plus, since the next day was obviously booked for me, I had to leave early in order to make sure I had enough time to get my domestic errands done (grocery shopping—ahh!).

After leaving the expo, the rest of the day was spent grocery shopping/taking public transit (because that sucks up a lot of time), and so I literally did not get home until 5pm. I was slightly concerned since I was out on my feet all day, doing plenty of walking under the hot sun, but I went ahead and quickly made a light dinner before resting up on the couch.

Around 8pm, I slowly began to gather my race day essentials, and got into bed at 8:30pm since my ride was picking me up at 3:15am. The plan was to park and catch the shuttle from Santa Monica to the starting line at Dodger’s Stadium.

On race day morning, I woke up before my alarm could ring at 2:45am, quickly got dressed, and dashed out of my apartment to meet my ride downstairs. I was carpooling with two members of the team I was training with, and because of it was early morning on a Sunday, we had no traffic to fight.

We arrived and parked in Santa Monica a little after 3:30am, and had to walk over to where the shuttles were parked. A fellow runner was walking near us and commented that we wouldn’t need to warm-up before the race due to all the walking we already had to do!

Once we got on the shuttle, it was 4:00am. I began fueling with two Quest bars, and soon we were dropped off in front of Dodger’s Stadium.

SAMSUNG

Since we had “lost” one of our carpoolers on another shuttle, my other carpool buddy and I waited outside for him. In the meantime, we collected some freebies (water bottle, Clif bar minis, Clif shot bloks (!!!) ), which I stashed for later.

After finding our teammate, we walked inside the stadium to see if we could find the rest of our teammates. We didn’t really have a designated meeting spot, but since we had team shirts, we assumed we’d be able to find “our people” as they walked in.

beforetherace

I continued to hydrate and fuel with two mini Larabars, and a mini Clif bar. More of our teammates arrived, and we found an area on the floor to sit and occupy so as not to tire our legs.

SAMSUNG

Photographers came around and took our pictures. At one point, a man without a bib approached me and asked if I had an extra bib, which I found to be a strange thing to ask. But when he explained that he had arrived at the expo too late, and that the race organizers wouldn’t give him his bib since the expo was closing, I could understand his frustration and distress. Still, I didn’t just happen to have an extra bib lying around…

As time ticked closer to 6:00am, more and more of my teammates arrived, and soon we had enough members for a group picture. After getting our stuff checked in at bag check and using the porta-potties, our group shuffled with thousands of other runners to the starting line. A lot of us were first-time marathoners, so we didn’t have previous marathon times that would allow us to line up in Corrals A-E. Even though there was this separation between runners, I’m glad that I was still able to start with a group of familiar faces.

We gave eachother some last minute hugs and cheers, and soon we were off! I was able to run with two of my teammates (fellow ladies that “struggled” with me on a 13 mi LSD back in January) for the first mile, but they stopped to use a porta-potty after Mile 1, so from that point on, I was on my own for a while.

The course led us through Chinatown, DTLA, and Little Tokyo for the first couple miles. In all honesty, the first 10k breezed by like the cool breeze and overcast skies that blanketed over us runners (<— at least the weather was like this for the first quarter of the race…). There were plenty of distractions early on in the race too—everything from people preaching about the bible over megaphones, to taiko drums, to chili dogs being served by locals at the 5 mile mark!

Miles 7-13 didn’t fly by as quickly, but did pass by at a steady enough rate. I was still feeling pretty good, making sure to keep hydrated with my handheld water bottle. I also ran through misting machines, and dumped cups of water over my head at every chance I could get.

We passed through Echo Park and Silver Lake during these miles, and approached Hollywood and Vine at around Mile 11, where I began to start mid-run fueling with some fruit gummies I purchased the day before from Sprouts. I fueled with the same bag of gummies periodically between Miles 11-15, as things started to heat up at Mile 15.

In Beverly Hills, a spectator had a sign that said “Even Pretty Woman cried on Rodeo Dr.“, and this spectator was standing right as we turned the corner at Rodeo Dr.! It was fun being able to run past designer stores, but since the sun was starting to rise higher, the heat was beginning to set in. Fortunately, ice was starting to be provided at aid stations, so I grabbed a handful and stuffed some cubes in my mouth. I looked like a chipmunk at least up until Mile 16!

People I spoke to in the past said Century City is one of the most boring/hard-to-get-through areas, but there was a decent-sized crowd there this time around. Miles 20-22 near the VA/Westwood were incredibly tough on the other hand. My legs started to feel extremely sore, and people all around me were slowing down to a light jog, or to a pained walk. It was also the “driest” part of the race, since there were no water stations in sight, nor were there any misting machines.

I still didn’t want to stop the momentum, so I trucked on in light jogger mode, even though it felt like I was exerting so much energy just to move one step. At one point, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run the last few miles of the race!

Fortunately, volunteers and spectators made their presence again once I got into Mile 22. Some were even holding out full packages of Clif shot bloks, which I grabbed from one of the volunteers with much gratitude. Since I wanted to finish the race running, I stuffed all six bloks just before Mile 23 to see if that would do the trick and bring me back up to speed.

And it just so happened that it worked! I felt my speed pick back up, and found a fellow teammate in the distance walking through a water station around Mile 24. When she saw me, she said “Ready? Let’s finish this,” and we began to match ourselves in stride and accelerate our pace. We were one and strong for the next two-ish miles. I even had enough energy to flash a smile at one of the race photographers in the middle of the road, just before we turned on Ocean Ave.

Mile 26 was the defining moment. I thought we would make it across the finish line together, but my teammate stopped to walk and encouraged me to keep going. It was the hottest stretch of the race since the sun was beating down with no mercy…and there was no ocean breeze whatsoever!

But I made it. And according to Mr. Garmin, I have a new long distance PR and marathon time of 4:36:56. The finisher’s area felt like such a long stretch, and I actually was walking for quite some time before being offered a medal. Then I was offered a heat sheet, cold + wet towels, water, snacks, and a finisher’s photo.

 Crowds in Santa Monica, after the race.
Crowds in Santa Monica, after the race.

I met some of my other teammates in the family reunion area off to one side of the finisher’s walk. We hugged and congratulated each other, commiserated about Miles 20-22, and commented about what a phenomenal experience this all was. A few of my teammates commented on how I didn’t even look tired, and found it humorous when I replied saying I felt “sorta sore”.

I sat with my team, and hugged/congratulated my other teammates as they joined our group with smiles on their faces. We sat around and chilled until 1pm, which was when we had enough people to carpool with back home.

SAMSUNG

The traffic in Santa Monica was INSANE. We got to the car around 2pm, but didn’t even get on the highway until 3pm! By the time I got home, it was almost 4pm!! It was frustrating to have to push my marathon lunch plans forward as dinner plans, but I wasn’t going to let that bring me down from the happiness and accomplishment I gained from the glorious morning I had. Plus, I did get to celebrate with a superb veggie burger and exotic-flavored ice cream (more on that later 😉 ), so I’m not complaining!

I’m so happy that I made the decision to run 26.2 at this point in my life. The experience gave me the challenge I needed to take my long distance running and endurance to the next level, to treat my body with more respect in terms of fuel and strength, and it’s even made me more confident. I met a lot of great people by training with a team, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the support of my family and friends.

My Dad was glued to his computer, tracking me online. When I finished the race and checked my phone, there were about six messages from him with encouraging words as I progressed along the course at different times. Reading those messages made me feel so elated and loved, even though he was not physically there to give me bear hug at the end of the race (and to help me pick up some extra post-race freebies 😉 ).

first_marathon_love

My marathon withdrawls are not as strong as I thought they’d be, but I am taking it easy with the running for this week. My current plans are to continue as though I’m training for a marathon, making sure I maintain the endurance I’ve built up with those 13-20 mi LSD runs, but I think my current goal will be to work on a new half PR (sub 2:00 please!!). Next on the agenda, find some races…

Would you ever run a marathon?

How did you feel when you crossed the finish line of your first marathon?

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