Well, we did it - About 17,000 of us finished the Los Angeles AKA "Monsoon Marathon" of 2011. We, the dedicated, passionate, finish-line-focused, who walked, ran and swam through sharp winds, blistering cold, rain, hail and hell. We battled aches, pains, clothes drenched, gloves soaked, minds numbed. Looking back on it, I am awestruck. A new PR was even established for this race. Yes, it was miserable at times. But we all pulled together. Around mile 5, while standing in a non-moving line for a port-a-potty, the rain picked up, my clothes got wetter, my joints ached, and I wondered if it was all worth it. I looked at the other faces around me for some confirmation of my doubt, but found none. I wasn't about to be the only one dissenter. Yes, together, we can do it!
From the beginning...
The day starts very early. I arrive at the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Monica at 4:00am where the LA Leggers have reserved the ballroom. I drop off my post-marathon bag which amongst other necessities, includes dry clothes, as well as a ZipLock bag of dry socks, dry insoles and food which will be sent to the 16 mile Legger support station. I check in with the front desk, and wait for Legger Julio so we can walk together to the 4:30am shuttle together just across the street.
I had hoped that Paulselth & Associates would be here to tape up my calf, but I am told they ended up not coming. I consider taping up myself, but this may produce more harm than good.
Julio arrives, and we board the 4:30am shuttle which leaves promptly for Dodger's Stadium - Highly recommended mode of marathon transportation!
We arrive and I am very excited. But as we start walking toward the green field and bright lights, I feel a discomforting pinch on the side of my right knee. This is a new ache. Although I am not thinking about it at the time, I later realize that my joints are forecasting the cold wet weather to come. Hopefully, not a sign of bad joints in the future.
We make our first porta-a-potty stop and then head out in search of beautiful Legger faces atop third base. It is thrilling to be here - all us marathon walkers and runners pack a stadium which is usually occupied by quite a different crowd of hot dog and beer guzzling baseball fans. I don't usually like to battle the mayhem of Dodger games , but today - I am thrilled to be here, in this bleacher seat.
With Julio at Dodger's Stadium:
I am loving hanging out at Dodger's Stadium so early in the morning, with the roving camera catching everyone's excitement on the big screen. There is a fierce wind tunnel directed at us, so I take multiple opportunities to warm up by standing in the restroom line and hanging out where it is warmer.
Note the Hot Dogs sign in the background. Dodger dog anyone?
Here's a picture of Rene and Glen near a really long line for the men's restroom.
I see Chicrunner sitting with her friend looking cold and unhappy. I love her blog! My only pseudo-marathon-celebrity sighting (sorry no pic - but she has plenty on her site).
Since we arrive so early, we must now wait for about two hours. Around 7:00am, a large Legger 12 crowd heads out. In my head, I hope to run about a 13 minute/mile. Of course Rene thinks that I am fine, my aches and pains are normal, and insists that I run with the group. He is so persuasive! So I start with them - happily.
Here are Jim, Jenn and Rene uber-excited about the start. Jim and Rene are extra pumped to get our watches synchronized.
Before we even cross the start line, I feel the expectant droplets of rain. I am quick to put my garbage bag pancho back on as my temporary shield.
I break off from the group early - around mile 2 or 3 around the Music Center. My calf still bothers me, and I am on the lookout for the first medic tent I can spot. There is one steep downhill around this area - so I take a long walk down. I love running through Downtown though, and this is followed by the prettiest sight along the course - the lake in Echo Park!
Around mile 5, I stop and stand in line for the port-a-potty. It is really pouring now. Rene calls me and asks where the group is - I tell him I have fallen behind, and give him Julio's number. I use the port-a-potty, and chuck my garbage bag - I feel it is weighing me down.
Around mile 6, I spot a medic tent. I am suspicious of the training of the volunteers here, but I am happy to sit down and receive some rest. A nice volunteer wraps my calf in two ACE bandages, and then tightens that up with Saran wrap. Another volunteer tells me not to push it if it hurts, and that I can always do the OC Marathon in May. I surprise myself with my answer - not so much the content but the tone. I am in good humor and laugh when I tell them that there is no way I am not finishing, since I missed out on the marathon last year. I sound so upbeat! I get up about 10 minutes later. My newly packaged calf is highly constrictive, and I eventually pull over and remove the excess layers and keep one of the bandages. It doesn't feel so bad. I make it to mile 7 where I see plenty of friendly faces.
Below are pictures that Legger extraordinaire John Flynn took from the mile 7 Legger support station:
After John takes this picture, I tell him "I'm not doing too good." The act of simply telling this to someone must have been enough to get me over my hurdle. Soon I start to regroup. The support of the Leggers station really helps. I start setting goals. First goal? Get to mile 13! No whining until then!
Soon after I broke from the group, I changed my regular 5:1 interval (running to walking) to 6:1. If I feel good, I skip a walk break, and if I need it, I walk longer. The walking is good, but not when it is pouring. I notice a lot of people walking very early on. I hear Legger Mentor and Board Member Rosa give some good advice to someone from Students Run LA - Keep running as much as you can since it warms the body up. Good advice! Later, I find out many people are diagnosed with hypothermia.
The trek through Hollywood is sooo wet. I am very cognizant of how wet my clothes are, especially when I stop and stretch. The tops of feet hurt. I stop multiple times to loosen my shoelaces. I have a strange stinging in my lower back but I choose to ignore it. My knees bother me, even more than my calf at this point.
There are many puddles on Hollywood boulevard and my shoes get soaked. I am glad John recommended we have a pair of dry socks waiting for us along the course!
There is a climb up to Sunset Boulevard and it is around here that I find Legger 12 Melissa, and we run together for about a mile. She's in a good mood - even though she is hurting too. Good to know we are all in this together.
Because of the weather, there is very little of the expected entertainment. So I am VERY PLEASED to see the drag queen cheerleaders in West Hollywood - YOU ARE AWESOME!
I soon reach my mile 13 goal. Next goal is mile 16! The mile 16 Legger support station is like an oasis in the desert. I pull over and hang out here for 5-10 minutes. I change my socks and my insoles. I remove my wet arm warmers and the ACE bandage, and spray my leg with Kool-Fit. I eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I had prepared. I also take another Tylenol. I check my cell phone - A lot of people have been trying to reach me, especially my mother. I am worried about this - if she sees how drenched I am, she will insist I stop. The plan was to meet her around Wilshire near Neiman Marcus. Part of me is worried, but a larger part of me is looking forward to a loving face.
Here I am running along Rodeo:
Once I arrive at Wilshire, I try and reach my mom, but she is not here. Now, I start trying to get in touch with my aunt and cousin - They are waiting for me in Brentwood. My aunt tells me that I am going to catch hypothermia - I tell her, "Me and 25,000 of other people!" I should also mention that around mile 16 is when my iPOD stops working. No worries - Over the course of my training, I have strengthened my mental stamina and it is all I need to finish.
It is around here that I run into Leila - This is her first marathon, and she is walking now because of her knee problems. I feel for her. She is a trooper! I also run into Legger Mentor Glenn numerous times along the course, as well as Legger Mentor Saeed and his brave band of 14's, and Legger Mentor Jennifer and the 13's. It's good to see their familiar faces and I feed off their energy.
There are many volunteers along this area with cooling sprays for sore muscles and joints - and I get sprayed as often as I can.
It's a long way on Santa Monica Blvd until we finally reach the VA, which is muddy and flooded in several areas. There is a narrow path where we run along the sidewalk to bypass all of the water. Someone behind me says that we should get two medals for this. I tell them, we should get our registration free for next year!
Here I am running in the VA:
Coming out of the VA, we head into beautiful Brentwood. I now look out for my aunt and cousin - they are at San Vicente and Bundy around mile 21.
When I reach them, I break down in my aunt's arms crying. She says I can go home with them. No way! I feel like I am in a pit stop at a NASCAR race. I take off a wet layer of clothes and replace it with a nice dry one, and put on a new garbage bag . I lighten my load, and with a hug and a lot of love, they send me off - with a ton of energy. I really pick up the pace now. It's only 5 miles to the finish - no problem!
The last 5 miles feel easier than the first 5. All I need now is heart and determination. I whiz past people, and have my goal firmly in place. If anyone is around me at this point between mile 23-26, they would hear me talking to myself repeatedly - I know that I can do this. I have done it before. ....And I do...
Marathon 4 is in the books! At 6:10, I am happy with my accomplishment. By the time I get to the finish, it is really windy now, and feels like it is hailing. The finish line area is in shambles. I grab a banana and start heading back to the Doubletree ballroom where my aunt and cousin are waiting for me.
The walk back is long, but it's nice to see my loved ones and Legger family there. Of course, post-marathon, I catch a horrible cold, which I am now recovering from.
However…now that we are approaching a heatwave in L.A., I have to say I would take cold and rainy over hot and sunny.
Thank you to all the Legger and LA Marathon volunteers and everyone else who cheered us on along the course. It was hard enough running in that weather, let alone standing in the crowd. Thank you.