Monday, October 18, 2010

RUNDown: Long Beach Marathon 2010 (marathon #5)

sand castle of finisher's medal

Sunday I ran the Long Beach Marathon. For those just tuning in, let's recap a bit:

Due to travel and catching a cold on the return, the running has been spare since August. Last long run was 8 weeks previous, and total mileage about 70 miles.

Adding injury to insult we tore our left calf muscle about 3 weeks ago and have been feeling that slowly get better.

So, my expectations were low, my goals were:

  • Run easy and with good form, especially after mile 20. Keep the cadence high.
  • Find a realistic pace...this will happen by itself in the first few miles. Pretend your doing your first ultra...slow down some..put the watch away. Finish easy!
  • Drink and eat properly.
  • Enjoy the sites and crowds along the course.
  • Rack up race #2 in the California Dreamin' Racing Series!
  • Take pictures.
  • Enjoy the post race festival

We'll see how I did with these goals later.

This was my first time flying to a race...took JetBlue from SFO down to LGB the day before and checked into my hotel, which was very close to the expo and the start and finish lines.

Got to the Expo, snarfed my packet of stuff and made a quick pass around the floor.

I'm I the only person that thinks running Expos are dumb? How much stuff can you market to a runner, especially when it's all the same stuff? Meh.

Long Beach did something nice though, they had mile marker posters made by local artists (children and adults) and they had them mounted on stands. Here's mile marker #1:

This were really nicely done and were easy to spot during the race as well as making for an added interesting element to the course. There was a silent auction of all the mile markers to benefit a local charity...another nice idea.

I walked over to the California Pizza Kitchen to get some dinner and sat at the bar....looking around you could spot all the runners: not eating pizzas or pastas  smothered in cheese, but just the simple sauces. ...I did the same 8). I had a nice chat with a guy doing the half marathon that used to do the inline-skating marathons as part of this race (they discontinued them because it was too dangerous and not many people did that event)

Before bed,  I got all my kit set up. I've got checklists now to make sure I don't forget to take anything on the trip and also make sure I don't forget anything on race morning (you can find them in my "Useful stuff" section on the right).

So far the weather was looking perfect: overcast and about 60F for the whole morning. I debated whether I should wear my cut-down shirt, or a regular shirt (brought both)..decided to wait for race morning to decide that. Went to sleep at about 8:30pm and had no problem falling up at 3pm to eat some light breakfast (I brought my favorite cereal and a plastic bowl and spoon from home, and had bought a small milk at a market earlier.

After that, I wasn't able to sleep and finally I got up at about all my stuff on and snapped a bad photo . You can see I elected the cut down shirt..I'm not trying show off my fat-coated abs....I do it because it leaves the solar plexus exposed for cooling (most people pin their bib right over it!). I find that after hours of running I suffer if I get too hot and this really helps. I also have stopped wearing hats and use a headband to keep the sweat off my face...your head dissipates a ton of heat and wearing a hat just insulates headband or open visors are best, IMHO.

For this race, I decided to write my name on the front of my shirt and I also put the URL of this blog on the back...a lot of people coming up behind me during the race and complementing me on the name (and not just the 50+ folks).

Out the door at 5:45am and as usual it's already hopping. The bike racers were starting at 6am and flowed away down the course. Many people had on jackets and the de-riguer garbage bags but I didn't feel it was that cold. The humidity was a bit high and I decided I made the right shirt choice since we'd be sweating plenty.

When I read the reviews for race, many many people complained about the crowding on the course. This year had 25,000 entrants (!) of which 6000 were full marathoners so it looked to be even worse for crowding. I really didn't mind this, since I wasn't going for a good time, but I still don't like dodging. When the race walkers lined up for the early start, the MC made a big deal about really asking them to be careful to not walk abreast in the early part of the course..I was glad to hear this!

I lined up in wave-2 (3:45-4:05 pace), I didn't expect to run this pace but didn't want to be completely jammed up, and so I decided to run a 9-ish minute pace at least until the crowding eased.

While I was waiting I met and talked about running with this guy, Mike Taylor. He getting pretty close to being in my 50+ club but not there yet ;), he ended up running a 1:56 half ...go Mike!

The sun was up now (7am) and the first wave was about to go off. A very good singer sang our  national anthem (which is so hard on the high notes) and then off they went!

Miles 0-4
The race starts by loop around the marina areas where the Queen Mary, aquarium and other sites are visible. (Garmin map at the bottom of this post). I found the crowding not a problem so far.

Here's my first mile splits:
mile:     1  pace:      8:45
mile:     2  pace:      8:58
mile:     3  pace:      8:52
mile:     4  pace:      9:01
 cumulative @ mile:     4  pace:      8:54

You can see I was going fast but gradually slowing it down.  

The picture here shows some of the next wave on the left that will eventually be running where I am on the right. We are going under a road deck we eventually run on (I think)

Now were are approaching the bridge
Some of the reviewers in were kvetching about this "hill". I say, this is not a hill. Run SF if you want to see a hill or two.

From the top of the bridge you can see the Queen quite nicely. The white domed building used to have the Spruce Goose in it before they sold it to the Evergreen Aviation museum in Oregon

So far, I'm feeling really great. I  have a perfect stride and the crowding ain't nuthin compared to the SF bridge!

Miles 5-10

mile:     5  pace:      9:11
mile:     6  pace:      9:05
mile:     7  pace:      9:11
mile:     8  pace:      9:02
mile:     9  pace:      8:59
 cumulative @ mile:     10  pace:      9:00

During this section I noticed my quads and legs in general feeling a lot more tired than the should be at this point in the run. Probably I should have slowed down, but you know, I just decided I'd hold 9 min until I couldn't and then be happy with whatever pace I came in with.

Now we've exited the marina area and are running along the actual, well, looong beach. You can see its' still a bit crowded, but quite manageable. 

Miles 10-15

Now is when things get interesting.  My calf tear spot is getting to feel more and more strongly. Not a pain, but kind of a tight feeling. I'm not taking any ibuprofen....but it worries me.
Lengthening my stride seems to help.

mile:     10  pace:      9:16
mile:     11  pace:      9:08
mile:     12  pace:      9:07
mile:     13  pace:      9:15
mile:     14  pace:      9:00
 cumulative @ mile:     15  pace:      9:03

Eventually we come to the half/full split  I was following the women in blue as she had a very similar pace to me, but at the last second she headed left for the half! 

You can see the crowds were spread out nicely here (about mile 11) and if you look on the right side you can see there aren't very many marathoners compared to's gets much thinner.

At this point I'm starting to wonder where the 4 hour pace group is, they were right behind me in the wave-2 and I fingered they should be showing up any minute, since I knew I had dropped back to pretty much the average they should be holding.

....And wouldn't you know it, they came by just a minute later. Here's a photo of the perky women holding the balloons that was the pacer. She ran a non-stop commentary of praise and encouragement for the people in her group, as well as all the other racers out there.

I decided to try to hold my pace and keep with these guys as as far as I could. That strategy had worked pretty well at SF, if I could just not fade too badly at the end I'd have a pretty good run. I was thinking my legs were too sore to let me get another PR, i.e. sub-4:06, but the course was also much flatter so maybe the two might partially cancel out(?)
Miles 15-20

mile:     15  pace:      9:12
mile:     16  pace:      9:07
mile:     17  pace:      9:11

Now we are entering the last phase of the marathon, but we still have a long way to go. I'm holding with the pace group as we are going through the CSU campus and getting massive support from crowds of students! I'm not really used to all this shouting and hub-bub. But it sure helps the miles tick by painlessly. 

The picture to the right shows the "pyramid" building at CSU...a very striking blue color. No idea what's in there. Treasure perhaps?
Interestingly my calf is not feeling nearly as weird now, and even though my legs are tired, I have good stretches where I'm feeling like i can keep this up just fine till the finish. 

mile:     18  pace:      9:26   
mile:     19  pace:      9:33
cumulative @ mile:     20  pace:      9:07

It's about mile 17-18 we have an 80 foot hill to climb and that goes well, I blast up there and follow the pacer pretty closely..but I can tell I'm not going to last much longer. She gradually slips to being 30 seconds ahead or so by mile 20.

Miles 20-25 

Now  something unexpected happens, if you look at my splits you'll see something:

mile:     20  pace:     10:01
mile:     21  pace:     10:17
mile:     22  pace:     13:00  < cramp/spasm here>
mile:     23  pace:     14:24
mile:     24  pace:     12:33
cumulative @ mile:     25  pace:      9:44

After feeling pretty good, suddenly I get a cramp in that leg right where the scar tissue probably is. My guess is that that section of muscle was working more inefficiently that the rest of the calf and so it gave up the ghost.

After I realized it was just a cramp, and not a re-tear or something bad, I was ok and I massaged it for a while..which helped me power walk and run in alternation. It was a bummer to have happen but hey, bound to happen someday and as long as I wasn't hurting myself more I didn't mind. So far I'd been going much faster than I thought I would, so we could still finish in a reasonable time.

Around this time, I met a young guy also having troubles with his legs cramping, he's in the photo to the right in the lime-green shirt (in front of the girl with the gray shirt). 

Every time I'd see him go off ahead I figured that was it, but then I'd be jogging and I'd find him walking again too. So we kept see-sawing back and forth probably half a dozen times  until the finish.

Approaching the finish! You can see the mile marker for 26 in the photo and below from the expo shot I took.

mile:     25  pace:     14:10
mile:     26  pace:     13:59
mile:     26.2  pace:     10:45
cumulative @ mile:     26.2  pace:     10:05

So the race was over, marathon #5! My right quads are a bit more sore than left the day after from my limping shuffle I used, but generally I feel pretty good. My left calf is tight but the cramp area feels pretty good today (Monday) we'll see on Tuesday how we really feel.

How did I do on my goals?

  • Run easy and with good form, especially after mile 20. Keep the cadence high.
I did good on this one I think, the garmin shows my cadence as well over 85 for the first 18 miles of the race. I had ZERO Achilles issues before, during or after the race. That problem is solved.  I get an A on this one.
  • Find a realistic pace...this will happen by itself in the first few miles. Pretend your doing your first ultra...slow down some..put the watch away. Finish easy!
Hmmmm. I give myself a D on this one. I probably should have just gone out at a 10 minute pace and I would have had no cramping. But hey.
  • Drink and eat properly.
I gave myself a B- here. I drank a ton..maybe even too much I was starting to think. I did have breakfast and eat 3 GUS so I did ok but I did feel a bit bloaty after mile 17 or so.  At one point during the walk-run part I picked up a bag of watermelon slices being given away and MAN that that taste good! I wonder if these GUS are really better than just using salt tabs and real foods? Something to explore...
  • Enjoy the sites and crowds along the course.
Get an A here! It is the first race that had such a huge number..and not just in CSU.
  • Rack up race #2 in the California Dreamin' Racing Series!
  • Take pictures.
I probably lost about a minute taking pictures, but it's well worth it. I think I'll do this every race from now on. I get an A.
  • Enjoy the post race festival 
Spent about an hour and 15 minutes..was hoping to find Arthur (SeniorRunner) but never saw him. (he did great on his first full marathon!). I did meet one of the Marathon Maniacs that I'd said hello to as I passed him on the course. He's name is "Irish Joe" and I'll tell more about that later.

Stats: 4:25 is the same time as my very first marathon. I was shocked given all the walking that I could do so well as that. I'm also shocked my relative place is as good as it is.

All in all, despite  the cramping it was a fun day and I'd do it again for sure!

Runner Details Race Results
Bib: 2911
Name: Paul
Gender: M
Age: 54
Hometown: Silicon Valley, CA
Overall: 1528 out of 3527
Men: 1049 out of 2158
M 50-54: 104 out of 213
Age/Grade: 54.55% Place: 1149
Finish: 4:25:08 Pace: 10:07
Tag Time: 4:25:08
Gun Time: 4:29:28
Split Times
10 Km: Pace:
12.5 Mile: 1:54:11 Pace: 9:00
18 Mile: Pace:
24 Mile: 3:55:27 Pace: 9:49


  1. Awesome rundown, Paul! I was taking notes on your mile by mile split time and very much impressed ...... and when I saw your time from mile 20 to 25, I thought of what happened to me. Nice event indeed, spectators/community were in to it, cheering and giving high five to runners. The Pyramind is home of the LBSU basketball and volley teams. Glad to know you enjoyed your short stay in Long Beach.

  2. Hi Arthur,
    Sorry we didn't get an eyeball meeting but yes a fun day!
    Perhaps you'll run the full at Surf City? 8)

  3. WooHoo Paul!

    Great run & LOVE the race report!

    Hope I do as well in my first marathon in January!

  4. Hi Paul,
    How is the recovery? Hope you are back on the street and getting ready for your next event.
    Did my first recovery run of 5 miles this morning. I can safely conclude that, I am fully recovered and ready to run my next event in Lafayette, CA.

  5. Awesome! Love the report ... I bet typing it in was a little taxing on you as well. Pictures are cool - how heavy is your camera?


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