Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lessons Learned and What Comes Next

It is hard to believe that it has been a week since I lost my "marathon virginity". In the last week I have had time to reflect on my marathon experience and what went right and what went wrong. All in all, it was a good experience, but there were a few speed bumps along the way.

Let's start with what went right:
  1. I started and finished the LA Marathon.
  2. I followed my race plan pretty closely, but had to modify a bit on the fly.
  3. I saw parts of the city, I have never been to in all the years living here.
  4. The volunteers and spectators were awesome.
Now...what went wrong:
  1. I started the race too fast and got sucked in with the crowd.
  2. I followed my race plan pretty closely, but had to modify a bit on the fly
  3. I had an electrolyte issue again even though I was using Salt Stick, Cytomax and Gatorade. I had this same problem at the SRLA 18 mile race a month earlier. This is something I need to get figured out.
  4. I had a constant pain in my right foot from mile 5 on. I loosened my shoes, I tightened my shoes, nothing seemed to alleviate this pain. Again, this is something I need to get figured out.
  5. I didn't look around enough and enjoy all of the sights.
I have time to fix the problems that went wrong as I won't run another full marathon until the LA Marathon next year, but some of those things can help me with the half marathons I have coming later this year.

So what is next for me? I will continue to train and will not be a slacker. I still plan on swimming 2 days a week, running 3 days a week and biking 1-2 times per week. I am taking the next 2 months off of racing and won't do another race until the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon Relay with my team..."Need for Speed". This will be my first foray into a relay team and should be fun, although I have been told by my team captain that we will be going sub 4 hour for this race. Yikes...gotta start doing some speed work. Over the summer, I plan to do at least 3, possibly 4 triathlons culminating with the Los Angeles Tri in October. Later that month I will run the Inaugural RnR Los Angeles Half Marathon.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    2010 LA Marathon Race Report

    The last couple of days I have reading some great race reports from this years LA Marathon, here are a few of the good ones.  Toky Photography, The Running Fat Guy (check out the video) and Nina's Race Report. I will give you some of the highlights and lowlights from my first marathon experience.

    The Expo: It was a pretty good expo, with lots of vendors selling product or handing out samples, although, I feel the Disney World Marathon expo was better. Bib pick up went smoothly, got my t-shirt (disappointing) and goodie bag (disappointing) and wandered around.  I saw Sarah Reinertsen was sitting there signing copies of her book, "In a Single Bound", so I walked up started chatting with her and bought a book which she personalized for me. She is truly inspirational...if you don't know about her, she is the first above the knee amputee to complete an Ironman triathlon, which she did in 2005. If you get a chance to see the 2005 Ironman replay, she is featured quite a bit in it. I have not been able to put down this book, I am about half way through it and will review it here on the blog in the coming weeks.

    Saturday I was invited to the Mt Gleason Runners (SRLA), end of year luncheon, where we ate a nice lunch, watched a great video recap of the year and awards were handed out. You could tell that these kids really enjoyed the program and Coach Moss. Thanks again for letting me be a part of that.

    Race Day: I got up at 3am and headed to Santa Monica at 3:45am. Got parked right away and onto one of many waiting busses. I was at Dodger Stadium by 4:45am. The parking/shuttle situation concerned me the most, but I had no problems at all, although I heard that later busses were stuck in traffic. I wandered into the stadium and sat down and ate some breakfast. At 6:30am I decided ti hit the restrooms and head to the starting corral, much to my surprise...the bathrooms in the stadium were jammed with huge lines. Plan B - head out to the porta potty's in the parking lot. As I wandered out there I ran into Chris and we stood in line for about 30 minutes. While waiting, we noticed people going up the hill behind the porta potty's and going in the one point it was both men and women using the bushes...quite a funny site.

    I made my way to the corrals and was looking for the 5 hour pace group and they were about 100 feet ahead, but there was no way I was going to get up there. Just stayed where I was and the race started, took me about 10 minutes to cross the starting line. The first few miles, I was trying to find my pace and settle into it. From downtown (mile 3) to Hollywood (mile 8) was a constant incline and I think that zapped a lot out of me.
    I also developed an issue about mile 5 with a shooting pain between #2 and #3 toes on my right foot. It felt as if I was being injected with a needle between the toes every step I took and that continued until the end.
    Miles 9-15 were pretty uneventful but by mile 18, I was starting to cramp in my calves. I took a few salt tablets and some gatorade and walked for most of that mile. I ran/walked mile 19 until I saw my friend Derek walking towards me with a gatorade and we walked and filled my bottles until we met my running partner, Melissa, at mile 20. I felt some renewed energy seeing a friendly face in a crowd of strangers. Derek and Melissa ran the last 6 miles with me, they stayed out in front of me a bit and I was trying to keep up. It felt like we were running a 9:00/mile pace, but it was more like 11:00-11:30 pace. In my head I was calling them a few choice names, none of which I will repeat, but in the end, it meant finishing at 5:14:15 instead of 5:30:00 or later as I would have tried to walk much of the last 6 miles. After crosing the finishline, I took my picture and met them and walked down on the pier. It was so crowded that we turned around and headed back up the pier and decided to go elsewhere for lunch. We had a great celebratory lunch including my first beer in 2-1/2 months...tasted good!

    Highlights: Meeting Sarah Reinertsen at the expo, parking/shuttle, the course, the volunteers, the spectators, seeing Melissa and Derek at mile 20 and having them run the last 6 miles with me, seeing several of the Mt Gleason Runners kids out on the course, finishing my first marathon, the LA Marathon.

    Lowlights: Porta potty situation (need 2-3 times more), the course (mile 3 -8 were tough), the jackass that knocked my garmin off my wrist at mile 5 and I had to go back about 30 feet to find it and grab it with all these runners coming towards me!, went out a bit too fast, miles 18 and 19 were brutal, finish line area needs to be rethought, pier was too crowded, traffic on the 10 after race.

    Derek , Me and Melissa

    I have a new found respect for the city of Los Angeles and the people who live here. I will be back to run this race next year.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Running Really is a Team Sport

    For years I played baseball and adult co-ed softball and I enjoyed being on a team. After a few years, I realized that the team is only as good as the weakest player. I was on a softball team that was more social than competitive, it was at that point I decided to stop playing all together.

    I always thought running was a great individual sport, after all, who can you blame for failure, but yourself. Over the last 6 months or so, and throughout my training for the LA Marathon, I found that running really is a team sport. The friends I have made in the running/endurance sports communities are some of the best and most supportive people around.

    Now that I have completed my first marathon (3/21/2010  5:14:14), I want to acknowledge the many people on my team...whether you knew you were or not. Without you, this would've not been possible.

     My Wife: she is the person that got me into exercising when I was lazy and fat, it was she that wanted to do the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2007 and when her friends flaked on her, she convinced me to do it with her. We will be doing Disneyland Half marathon #4 in September, going for our "Coast to Coast Challenge" medal. She has supported me in everything I have done and will continue to do in the future including a possible Ironman triathlon.

    My Family and Friends (West Coast, East Coast and Texas) - they have been very supportive and my cheerleaders, even through tough times (injuries, my no drinking/cigar smoking until the marathon policy) you stood by me.

    To Everyone at the ARC Run Club - my "dysfunctional running family", you make Thursday, the best day of the week.

    My Twitter Peeps: There are so many but, these few are very special to me...Glenn - Thanks for all your words of wisdom!, Linda - Thank you for the pep talks and the support. Chris - You're an inspiration. Craig and the MT Gleason Runners - You and the kids are a great inspiration, thank you for letting be a part of  the group and for all of your advice and support.

    Last, but definitely not least...

    My Friend and Running Partner Melissa - You believed in me when no one else did! I always wanted to use that line after hearing it at the Academy Awards for so many years. :) Seriously, you have been an amazing friend and running partner, you have been a cheerleader and supporter and I have enjoyed the miles we have logged together and look forward to all of our future miles. You met at mile 20 of the LA Marathon, you ran with me and pushed me through the finish, even though I was calling you a few choice words in my head! In the end, it was all worth it, and I thank you!

    Thank You!

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    LA Marathon Race Recap - Reader's Digest Version

    LA Marathon 3/21/2010

    Woke up at 3am, drove to Santa Monica by 4:15am, got on shuttle to Dodger Stadium, sat at Dodger Stadium for 3 hours, stood in line at the porta potty's for 30 minutes, got an interesting show above the porta potty's (funny), ran 26.52 miles, finished the LA Marathon and had a celebratory lunch and beer with good friends. Sat in traffic on the way home, had sushi with my wife and crashed until this morning.

    Official time: 5:14:14

    I'll write a more detailed report in the next few days.

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    It's Showtime!

    In less than 12 hours I will be crossing the starting line of the LA Marathon. I am still a bit nervous, but very excited. I spent a few hours at the expo on Friday and got to meet and chat with Sarah Reinertsen, who is truly inspirational. Today, I went to the MT Gleason Runners (SRLA) end of year carbo loading luncheon. We had a nice lunch, watched their end of year video presentation and awards ceremony, it was truly a great time.

    I have spent sometime today and this evening on the phone with several friends and family members offering their advice and well wishes. I have gone through my check lists several times and have set two alarms for 3am. At this point, the training is done, the mental plan is laid out and now it is time to go lay it down on the streets of Los Angeles. I was reminded of this saying today and I think it sums it up..."Pain is temporary, finishing the LA Marathon is forever!"

    See you out on the course...Bib #9334

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Marathon Induced Insomnia... in Full Effect!


    So much for my plans of getting a little extra sleep each night this week before the big day. I was prepared not to get much sleep the night before the race, but waking up at 3am (incidentally the time I will wake up on Sunday) everyday this week is getting ridiculous. I lay there thinking about the race itself, getting to the race, hydration, nutrition, etc. and I cant get back to sleep. I hear that this is normal before a big race, but I have never experienced it like this before. I want my sleep! Hopefully, I can break this cycle for the next few nights.

    This week has been pretty lackluster in terms of runs, I skipped Monday's 30 min spin on the bike and yesterday's 5 miler. My legs are feeling a bit heavy and tired. I got in 30 minutes on the bike tonight and then 3 or 5 miles Thursday night with the group from ARC. Friday afternoon I will head to Dodger Stadium for the expo and Saturday I will be attending the Mt Gleason Runner's luncheon and trying to rest and stay off my feet as much as possible.

    I have made my checklist for Pre-Race, Race, and Post-Race and now will gather everything together and check and re-check it several times before leaving the house at 4am Sunday morning.

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    26.2 - The Final Week

    As I sit here writing this, one week from now, I will be about 3 hours into my first marathon. I am sitting here thinking, where did the last 18 weeks go? It seems like yesterday that Glenn sent me the marathon training plan that I would follow, boy time sure flies.

    Yesterday, before my last long run with Coach Craig and the SRLA kids, I told him, I couldn't wait to get the marathon over with and move on with my life. He told me I was approaching it the wrong way and that I should enjoy my first marathon. After thinking about it for a while...he's right, I want to enjoy all of the aspects of this marathon from the expo, lining up in the "mosh pit" as Chris put it, all of the sights along the way and particularly...crossing the finish line! I have worked hard for this, I have overcome a serious injury and now I need to focus and enjoy this experience.

    This week's schedule has just a few runs of a couple of miles and some rest days. I will focus on preparing mentally for the race this week. I will put together a nutrition strategy for the race as well as my pre-race plans on race morning. I will try and get extra rest each night and start to add extra carbs to each meal this week.

    Yesterday, we did an 8 mile run, which I made a tempo run (1:13:39/ 9:12 mi) out of it. Today, I did an easy 4 mile run with the first 2 miles at my marathon starting pace (12:00 mi) and the last 2 miles at a bit faster pace (11:00 mi). Physically and mentally, I think I am prepared for this task...we'll find out in 7 days.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    26.2 - The Mental Challenge

    As I have stated before, this will be my first full marathon and from what I have heard from all of my friends that have run a marathon, the biggest challenge will be the mental game. I think back to September 2007, when I ran my first half marathon (Disneyland) and what I felt before that race. I was nervous, excited and unsure how my body and mind would react to the distance. I was under-trained, under-prepared and went into it with a bit of an ego thinking I would run my first race in 2:30...boy was I wrong. I hit the, I splattered against the wall at mile 10 and struggled to get through the rest of the race. I finished in 2:41:31 and felt horrible, in fact, I didn't run again for several months. All I know, is that I don't want that to happen this time.

    So how do I prevent that from happening? I think the best way to approach the race is to first, get rid of the ego and time goal. My goal is to just finish the race...upright and not requiring a ride in the "big, red, limousine". At one time, I thought that 4.5 hour time goal was within reach, but given the severity of my injury 2 months ago and I missed training for 3 weeks, I have had to for go any time goal at all.  I need to break the race down into much smaller, more manageable segments. I will break it down in 10K increments, since that is a comfortable distance for me and I run a 10K route in training, I can imagine that run in my mind. I have to start slow and pace myself, I am running 26.2 miles, not a 5 or 10K race. I must not get sucked into the crowd at the start, I need to pick a pace and stick with it.

    Once I get to mile 20, that is where things will get challenging since I have never run more than 20 miles and I will be entering uncharted territory. If I stay focused and look at it as the final 10K, I think everything will be OK. Dont get me wrong...this will be a challenge, one of the biggest in my life, but if I stick with the game plan and stay focused, I will cross the finish line!

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    My Saturday Run with The Mt. Gleason Runners

    A few weeks ago I ran the SRLA 18 mile Friendship run and I met Coach Craig Moss and his kids, the Mt. Gleason Runners. I was impressed with Coach Moss and his group of kids that when the offer was made to  run with his group, I jumped at the chance. Saturday morning I met them at their starting point (McDonalds, doesn't get much better...does it?) and after some quick announcements from Coach Moss, he introduce me to the kids and the last thing he said was "Don't laugh at him, when you run past him." We headed out on the scheduled 11 mile run, which was a 5.5 mile out and back. During the first 5.5 miles, I would say hello to the kids as I was passing them and then I got in with a group of girls that was running at my pace and we stayed together until the water stop, when they stopped for water and I kept on going. I got to the turn around and there were a few kids stretching and walking, I just made the turn and headed back. I was feeling pretty good and decided to try and keep my pace all the way back. As I was heading back and came across students running the opposite direction, I would give them a thumbs up and say "Good Job" or "Way to go, keep it up" and I got a lot of smiles from that. I even heard a few kids say "Good job Bob" which really impressed me that they were actually listening to Coach Moss when he introduced me.

    As I was heading back, I noticed my pace was slowing a bit because of some uphill sections of the run. Little did I realize, on the way out was all I have an uphill run all the way back.

     As I was running back I would come up on some kids walking and would engage them in conversation. I asked them if this was going to be their first marathon, and when they said yes, I said "me too" and that put a smile on many of their faces. I noticed something funny, as I came up to kids that were walking, they would look over their shoulder and see me running, they would start running as to not get passed by the old guy. About 2 miles out, I came across this boy who was walking and as I passed him, I told him there was less than 2 miles to go. He started running and caught up with me. He asked me a few questions, so I took my ipod out and we started chatting. He told me his name was Arine (not sure of the spelling) and that this was going to be his first marathon. I asked him how he expected to do and he said he wants to finish in 6 hours or less. We started getting a light drizzle and the conversation turned to running in the rain and that he felt it was not good to run in the rain. I told him that there was a good chance (hopefully not) that we could see some rain on race day. He said, that's the marathon, that's different. I said to him, you need to know what it feels like to run in the rain, clothes, shoes, socks all wet and how your body reacts to it. He shook his head in agreement. As we came up to a small intersection, where a car was getting ready to turn right, I gave him a lesson in safety. He was getting ready to go in front of the car and I stopped him and said, "If you can't make eye contact with the driver, don't step out in front of the car, go behind the car". Sure enough, the driver never looked to her right before she pulled out. As we came to a stop light, he noticed my Garmin 305 and asked what it was. I explained that it was a GPS and that it would tell me my real time pace, distance, elevation and heart rate. He seemed impressed and then asked what pace we were running. As we started to run, I would call out our pace. We finished up with a short spring to the finish. I got my recovery meal (Egg McMuffin, hash browns and a large iced coffee) and headed home. Total run 11.21 miles in 1:51:28.

    When asked if I would be back again...I said yes! I had a great time running with these kids. I normally train by myself except for Thursday night fun runs with our group, so this was a welcome change. Thanks again to Coach Moss and the kids for welcoming me! See kids...old guys can run too!  :)  See you next Saturday.

    Sunday was an easy 6 mile run at marathon pace...finished and then went for a massage. Time to relax now.

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Taper Time!

    This whole concept of tapering before a marathon is all new to me. I understand the purpose, but I have never really done a full taper before any of the half marathons I have run in the past. I have just not run a long run the week before the race. Since the LA Marathon will be my first marathon, I am trying follow my training plan as closely as possible. The next couple of weeks look to be pretty light in terms of running.

    Here is my plan for the next few weeks:
    I am trying to rest and get more rest over the next few weeks, but that has become a challenge lately as I have been having trouble getting a good night's rest. I am trying to eat healthier meals while not gaining any more weight. I was able to drop 5 lbs in February and look to drop another few in the coming weeks. I have eliminated all swimming workouts until after the marathon as I am afraid to get sick before the big day. I will continue to do some light spinning on the trainer a couple of days a week. I know what clothes I will wear on race day and what fuel (Cytomax, Gu and Salt Stick) I will be using during the race. I know all of these things work and work well for me.

    Now is the time for me to prepare mentally for the challenge of running 26.2 miles. I got a nice pep talk last night about the mental aspect of the race. One point that was made was that if things started heading south for me mentally during the race, I know now how to comeback and get back on track to finish the race. I have been blessed with a great group of supportive people who have and will continue to offer great advice with regards to running and finishing my first marathon. So to all of you whether I have said it in the past or not...Thank You!

    Tomorrow I am going to do my long run (11 miles) with the Mount Gleason Runners which is part of the Students Run LA program...looking forward to it, should be fun, I hope the rain holds off until we finish.

    Have a good weekend!

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Chinatown Firecracker 10K Race Report


    I got to Chinatown early and met my friend and RP, Melissa and we headed over to the registration tables. Once we got our bibs, goodie bags(probably the best goodie bags I have seen at a local race) and t shirts, we went looking for A Runner's Circle's tent. After making a couple of trips back to the car...don't ask...we headed to the starting line to watch the opening ceremonies. After the Boy Scouts presented the colors, and a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, the traditional Chinese ceremonies started with the drums, gong and dragon dance. After the dragon dance came the lighting of the 100,000 firecrackers.

    After the ceremonies, Amy, Melissa and I did a nice little warm up jog down Broadway Ave. We started to make our way closer to the starting line and ended up about 2/3 of the way back. We started at a nice pace and after my 20 mile run on Saturday, I was definitely feeling my tired legs. The first 2.5 miles are up hill, actually there is about 500 feet of elevation gain in that 2.5 miles. We tried to keep up a decent pace but ended up walking a bit up the steepest portion of the course. I think Melissa's comment sums it all up...

    We finally got some was all downhill from here on out. We picked up the pace quite a bit. I actually struggled to keep up at some points but eventually caught back up. We cruised through the Dodger Stadium parking lot and headed for the home stretch. We turned back on Broadway and could see the finish line and really pushed hard. In the end, Melissa came in at 59:39 and I did yes, I did get "chic-ed"...but I'm OK with it. We had a well run race. I enjoyed the race, I would like to do it again on fresh legs as I know I could shave a couple of minutes off my time.

    After the race we met up in the beer garden with several of our friends. We then headed over to Ocean Seafood to try and catch the official "Tweetup" but we were late to the party. We did get to say Hi to everyone and then got our own table for some yummy Dim Sum. This day was a day of firsts for me...first time to Chinatown, first time running the Firecracker 10K and first time eating Dim Sum.

    Be sure to check out Glenn - The Running Fat Guy's Race Report as well. He did a much more thorough report with pictures and video.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    The 20 Mile Monkey is Off My Back

    Since I started my marathon training plan back in November, I always dreaded the three 20 mile runs that were on the schedule. The first two 20 milers happen to hit while I was recovering from the groin injury, so I was never really faced with running them. Last week was a different story...I have been back to running for 3 weeks and completed the SRLA 18 mile run the week before. (Click here for race report) That 18 mile run didn't go so well. I started out too fast, I had hydration issues that led to cramping and the socks I was wearing were just not comfortable. Looking at my schedule, I had 5 days to figure out what was wrong and prepare for Saturday's 20 mile run. I sought advice from several trusted people and we came up with a plan that included new socks with more cushion, salt stick and a much slower pace. I was watching the weather all week and the forecast called for rain most of Saturday and since I was running the Firecracker 10K on Sunday morning, I couldn't switch the 20 miler to Sunday. I planned out two loops starting from home, the first was to the West and was 12 miles and the second was an 8 mile loop to the East. I decided that if it was raining, I could stop after the first 12 miles, change shoes, sock, clothes and reload the water bottles.

    I woke up about 6am to pouring rain and didn't really want to get up and run in it, but I HTFU and got ready to go. I walked out the door at 7am in a light rain. By the time I got to mile 1, the rain had stopped and I shed my rain jacket. Everything was going well until mile 6, when the sky opened up and it just poured. I put the rain jacket back on and just slogged through. My shoes and socks were soaked, but I felt really good. I arrived home after mile 12 and changed, grabbed a PB&J and headed back out. It was raining pretty good, but the sky to the west was blue...but I was heading east. Thankfully the storm moved faster than I did and I was able to run 7 of the 8 miles without rain. When I crossed 18.40 miles, I was in uncharted territory and was unsure of what would happen. Surprisingly...nothing, I just kept moving along at my slow pace and finished the 20 miles. When it was all said and done I ran 20.17 miles in 4:01:39 (11:58/mile). I felt much better than last week's 18 miles, but between the socks, salt stick and slowing made all the difference. Could I have gone another 6.2 miles? Maybe, but that test will come in less than 3 weeks. The next morning, I ran the Firecracker 10K in Chinatown...look for that race report tomorrow.