Thursday, March 24, 2011

RUNDown: 2011 LA Marathon (#8)

Summary: Cold Rain. Wind. Awesome run!

This is my #8 lifetime marathon, #5 in my year of 8 marathons.

 I had been checking the weather and it was clear by Expo-day that the weather was going to be bad. The hope was the worst of the storm would be hitting after we finished.

A recap on our plans: for me, an even pace (as I did in Surf City) with my goal of learning more about judging proper pacing, having a good time, and finishing strong. My estimate of a good finishing time was 4:15 (a 9:42 m/m pace) which is 18s faster than Surf city. Seemed quite reasonable and hopefully a quick recovery for S2S on 4/10.

As for my brother-in-law, Charlie, he had aced his training and was targeting 8:30. This scared me a bit but at some point you have to let people do what they want to do...he's youngish (42) and a natural runner so it seemed like the worst thing that would happen is he'd get a bit of a nasty slowdown at the end but still have a nice very respectable time.

The day before we went over to OSH to get some cheapo rainsuits in case we had to sit in the corrals for a long time (to hold a spot). They don't cost much and come with jacket AND pants and keep you much warmer than the garbage bag method.

The forecast was for 50F, 15+ mph winds and heavy rain big learning from my trail marathon experience (where I really needed my jacket after mile 20) I knew I'd run with one as well as some gloves that I could stow in it's pockets.

I managed to convince Charlie that having some kind of light jacket during the race was good insurance against hypothermia. Charlie was loath to wear anything other than a shirt, even an unused jacket tied around his waist.  He was not afraid of the rain..he'd run a 14 miler in it... but I showed him my GreenLayer california dreamin jacket and how light it was, did not flutter in the wind and could be wrapped up and tied around the waist and be pretty minimal impact. 

And I told him of my worry that it would be really cold like my trail race. So, in the end he bought a nice stylish ultra thin jacket as well as a hat.

In retrospect, jackets probably prevented us both from very ugly DNFs.

The day before the race was the 80th birthday celebration for my father-in-law (also Charlie's father-in-law) and we enjoyed some wonderful carb-loading with pasta bolognese and a crunchy-style meringue dessert! Yummy. 

We got up at 3am(!) to drive to the finish area parking at the Civic Center and take the 4am shuttle buses. I had read on marathon guide about how screwed up everything was last year and saw that several people had said if you take the shuttles and take them early there was no problem...

Driving to Santa Monica the rain was light and on an off a bit....we parked right on the ground floor near the entrance/exit and walked to the shuttle and caught one right away.

Charlie at Dodger Stadium about 5am?
When we got to the Stadium we discovered they were letting us sit in the stadium..and there are a lot of seats that are under cover from the rain so that was great.

It was cold. Even in our rainsuits and with our jackets on under it was just barely tolerable without shivering. Plenty of people were shivering that had less clothing.

Luckily as more and more people crowded in over the next two hours the body heat got better at keeping everybody warm.

bleachers fill up..jumbotron playing, flags moving
The started showing a marathon promo movie on the Jumbo-Tron to give us something to look at which was nice, but it was only about 1/2 hr long and so after a while you'd see it all. I really like the CG graphics movie of the race course.

Notice the flags the time the race started they were flying almost straight out, probably a 15 mph wind (?)

We were able to use the bathrooms in stadium which was nice. Eventually, I decided to make my last visit but it was too crowded in the stadium so I went outside to the port-a-lets. When I came back and got into the hallway I discovered the place had become a zoo in the last 30 could barely move.

The start..looking forward
Rather than go back in I figured Charlie would get to his start corral one way or the other (he did) and so I  headed to the seeded corral..I was in "C" because of my 4:06 at SFM. There was a huge backup because of unseeded people trying to just get in there (some because they were just clueless, some trying to sneak in) but they were all pointed to the other corral and us vets all got in eventually.

While waiting I spoke with  a women named Yoko...she was visiting from Japan and  was wearing a "thank you for your support" banner. We had a moment of silence to remember what happened in Japan (as well as the anthem). 

I ditched my rainsuit about 10 minutes before the start. I could not get over how many people there were.
The start, looking back (!

This was a BIG marathon...biggest I'd ever tried.

There were 27,000 signed up and only ~23,000 people at the start. Little did we know that only 19,866 would actually finish.

The race started and it was crowded..I could only do an 11:00 m/m pace for the first 1/2 mile or so.  I took a shot of the first turn out of the stadium onto Sunset Ave.

Alas too blurry to be really useful but it gives you an idea of the crowding at this point. So far we didn't have any had been mostly holding off ...just occasional short dumps.

For the first mile or so there was crowd dodging..but actually not that bad..11:00 pace for the first .5, then sped up to get my average down to 9:39 on the garmin.

The early part of the course hits a big hill at Disney hall

Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Avg Cadence Elev+ Elev-
  1 1.00 09:39 157 88 55 106
  2 1.00 08:50 135 89 17 174
  3 1.00 09:24 129 88 40 32
  4 1.00 09:17 129 87 35 36
  5 1.00 10:26 128 84 83 50
climbing to Disney Hall (mile 4.5?)

looking back on the Disney Hall hill

Echo lake..about 10k mark, see the runners?

Approaching mile 9
Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Avg Cadence Elev+ Elev-
  6 1.00 10:18 128 86 97 33
  7 1.00 09:13 132 88 30 61
  8 1.00 09:33 127 87 41 73
  9 1.00 09:44 131 87 72 0
  10 1.00 09:46 130 87 0 24
Julie and Phil, about mile 10-11?

At about mile 10, I was approached from behind and asked what pace I was running by a young couple running together.

I showed them my 4:15 pace band and they laughed and guessed that was my pace..they had been following me!

I pulled forward and took this burry shot..I really need to get a better camera for low light conditions, sigh.

(Hard to stop dead to take a shot in the middle of crowds of runners..)

me, early in race
 was keeping to my pace pretty well at this point knowing that there was a long long way to go. On larger hills, I would break in to a power walk for 20-30s to easy the stress on my legs and make sure I was saving some for later. 

But I wasn't sandbagging..I did keep my average pace right were I wanted it to be..the splits at the mile markers vs my pace band were the final judge of this. The garmin was showing me about 5s faster than my actual splits and this was good to know...i.e. I needed to run showing 9:37 for my average pace to do a 9:42 overall (4:15 marathon). After some hills the seconds digit of my average might pop up to an 8 (9:38) and I would then press a little bit faster to drive it back down to a 7.

Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Avg Cadence Elev+ Elev-
  11 1.00 09:23 130 87 52 49
  12 1.00 09:40 129 86 33 76
  13 1.00 09:47 130 86 27 0
  14 1.00 09:44 132 86 60 18
  15 1.00 09:25 127 87 0 186

Movie anybody? (about mile 12.5)

Crescent Heights Blvd ..about 13 miles

Looking back at 13 miles
Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Avg Cadence Elev+ Elev-
  16 1.00 09:27 130 88 7 18
  17 1.00 09:46 135 86 50 0
  18 1.00 09:28 135 87 32 29
  19 1.00 09:31 137 87 33 49
  20 1.00 09:26 135 87 24 30

Miles 16 to 20 were the most difficult of the entire race. I was holding my pace but at any time felt that this might all evaporate and I would start slowing down despite my best efforts. Whenever I felt like I was slowing down (my cadence would slow and I'd bounce up and down more..i.e. more toward a "jog") I would focus on tightening up my stride into the "zip zone" of 87+..and right away I would speed back up a bit.

At mile 16.5 I suddenly heard a loud "PAUL!!!" was Toni with Abi,  Louise and Simon (niece and nephew! I could not belive they had been crazy so sweet to come out and see us run! (Remember it was steadily raining BUCKETS of cold rain, with big winds since mile 12-13!)

I came over and grabbed Toni's hands and said was confirmed that they had see Charlie which was good. Charlie later said that seeing his family really gave him the boost he needed at this point too....and with 10 miles to go that's a bit scary.

Onward! That last digit on the average garmin pace was hanging in there at 9:36..I would not let it get to 9:38..and the splits/paceband still showed me up 30s to a minute at each mile marker.

Along the way several large streams were crossing the course and we had to run through water that was 40F (probably?) and over our ankles. The light coating of vaseline on my feet kept me from getting any blisters though (kept skin from getting waterlogged). This seems to have worked for Charlie too.

 LA really should have a better drainage system. Probably too late to fix that though 8/

The Finish

Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Avg Cadence Elev+ Elev-
  20 1.00 09:26 135 87 24 30
  21 1.00 09:38 137 86 36 20
  22 1.00 09:44 138 86 68 0
  23 1.00 09:18 141 87 41 42
  24 1.00 09:36 140 87 16 12
  25 1.00 09:07 138 88 0 105
  26 1.00 08:57 141 88 23 105
  27 0.50 08:22 151 89 0 55

"One of the hardest races in the rain" says top 5 finisher

"By 1 p.m. on Sunday, an estimated one inch of rain had fallen in Santa Monica and 0.8 inches downtown, which would make this year's race unofficially the "rainiest" on record. "

Elevation profile...nice finish downhill!

Up to this point my mile splits and pace band was saying I was up about 45s to 60s under my goal pace...a teeny bit in the bank, if you will. You can see that the last miles after 23 had a good downhill to them (about 2%). I knew this too, and that it was a chance to do even better than 4:15.

I was annoyed that when the garmin said 23 I still didn't feel any downhill, Grrrr...but eventually in another .5 miles it  kicked in and I started to speed up.

I remember this part of the race pretty well because I felt really fast (the downhill helped!) and knew it was in the bag for a sub-4:15 with no pain or suffering. YES!

at finish! (with duck foot 8)
This is also my second fastest marathon.

I kept up a good clip to the finish but did not sprint like Surf City..nobody trying to pass me so no need.
In front of me was a dumbass  young guy that decided to shuck his raingear for the finish photo and just dumped it on the ground right on my legs..I narrowly avoided a face-plant by doing a quick side step to get it unwound from my was NOT easy with tired legs. I do admit to using a bit of profanity at this point 8/
After crossing the finish and getting medals etc I set about to see what food there was not a pretty scene....the rain was still pounding. I grabbed a few things but there wasn't anything really great except some cliff bars. The atmosphere was more like a refugee camp of starving people than a party.
I was feeling really happy with my 4:12:28 and especially the negative split. I had held a good pace and managed to hold this pace on the 16-to-23 mile gentle ups and then kicked it into the finish and felt pretty darn good. Woo Hoo!
I decided to try to find Charlie ASAP and right around then my phone started buzzing. I found a very nice family waiting under a huge bunch of umbrellas and asked if I could take my phone out of the ziploc and make a call under cover so I wouldn't ruin it. They were most gracious to this soaking wet bedraggled person.
Toni told me Charlie was in the Georgian Hotel lobby where they were letting runners crash. I looked down the road and could see it so I headed over and found him there wrapped in two mylar blankets. 
post-finish, soaked to skin
I asked him how it went and he told me he pulled off a 3:44:xx (the official result was a 3:43:xx !) Woo hoo! We both did great in atrocious conditions. The link article mentions the hypothermic conditions that really wacked a lot of runners.

Charlie was not a happy camper however, he had pushed himself really really hard and could barely walk...had to start by going backwards. I'll bet he was worse off because of the rain and not walking around after stopping..if it had been a bright sunny day with lots of walking and grazing on food his legs would have been a lot better.

We had a long slog to the parking lot with the conditions staying just as horrible, along the way we stopped off in a Sears to warm up (still pounding rain and wind). We got a phone call letting us know some friends of Charlie's from his neighborhood were needing a ride. Eventually we met up and found our parking garage and car.

This is the first time in my recent adult history that I've experience actual shivering. The last time was I think 10 or 15 years ago when I had pneumonia. It's also the first time in a long time I've seen adults with totally blue lips. (not me though....I think?)

We drove home in very wet hydroplaning conditions with the heat on 80F ;) After long showers we headed out to have the obligatory beer and burger feed. Wow..did they taste good!  I am still processing what a great race it was for both of us....(until after we finished!)  

LA Marathon impressions

The LA marathon course was a great course...just enough rolling hills to keep things interesting, great views different parts of the city and fantastic crowds and volunteers. 

In fact, at various points I was torn between keeping warm with my jacket zipped up, or unzipping so people could see my name. Having crowds of people shout out your name with words of encouragement is a powerful stimulant!

I can't speak to the finish line amenities since the situation there was so tough but I can say the food they had on hand was pretty "meh". SFM still wins by a mile with the smoothies and scones. Silicon Valley Marathon is a close second with Yahoo fish tacos.

The Spoils and Stats
Me and Charlie all cleaned up
Avg HR 134
Avg Cadence 87 (stayed in the "zip zone!")

Here are the splits recorded by the timing average pace of 9:37.8 corresponds to 59:50 per 10k. You can see that I had an even pace but it was a bit slower than that for each

10k 1:00:28  
15k 1:30:24
20k 2:00:28 (1:00 for 10-to-20k)
25k 2:30:41
30k 3:00:48  (1:00:20  for 20-to-30k)
35k 3:31:12
40k 4:00:22  (59:44 for 30-to-40k)

 The theme this year is "orange"..the color of some of the buses I guess? 8) I bought the hat at the expo (I collect hats..they don't take much space and I use them a lot). 
The backside of the shirt has a silhouette  of runners legs against all the boroughs and street names the race traverses.


  1. What a day, Paul! Great you and Charlie both enjoyed the race, though it sounds like Charlie wasn't as prudent as you.

  2. Congrats Paul! You did a great job out there in tough conditions. So happy for you!

  3. Loved the RR, Paul! I've done a couple marathons in those conditions and it is not all that fun. I salute you (and Charlie) for being very consistent and not giving in. Congratulations on a fantastic race (and I love the orange color!! :)).

  4. A great race recap! Great job in such crappy weather too.

  5. Awesome time and strong finish,Paul! The recap is more interesting than the TV coverage.

  6. Thanks for your comments everybody!

    Glad I finally got this RR written up. The race ain't over till we write about it.... (So we don't forget!)

  7. Awesome! #8 is very good number.

  8. First - the conditions sound as horrible as they could be for such a long distance.

    Second - love the back of that race shirt.

    Third - you must be very proud for finishing and doing well!

  9. Paul - I relived every minute while I read your recap. Especially the part about "people with blue lips". Were you referring me perhaps???

    So glad to have met you. I will visit your site often for Marathon tips.

    I'm hooked! When is the next one???

  10. Hi Paul! Great meeting you on race day and love that Phil and I are included in your blog haha. Congrats on your finish time, you rock! :)

  11. Love the race report, thanks. Well done on your race result, sounds like horrible running conditions and you still manage a Fantastic Time. Love the orange t-shirt.

  12. Well done, Paul. That looks like a really fun and rewarding route, despite the rain! :)

  13. Wow, that sounds like brutal conditions out there, nice job! Good call at keeping a rain jacket during the race. I've heard some people wear a vest, to keep your core temperature up. Also, arm warmers seem to be a good tool - but with a full on jacket you wouldn't need them.

    Glad you avoided a face plant at the finish line by that guy who took off his rain jacket right in front of you! More than anything I'd say that is a cardinal sin of running. (Also stopping in the middle of the course instead off to the side)


Feel free to leave a comment!