Today I ran the Long Beach Marathon. Marathon #4 for the year. I can’t say I was fast, and I can’t say it was all that enjoyable, but I crossed the finish line on my own two feet and that’s what really matters. I spent most of the last six miles hating running, races, myself, and basically everything else under the sun. And crying. There was a lot of crying. But when I rounded that last corner and the end was in sight (a very timely downhill stretch, thank goodness) I was incredibly proud of myself. This time it wasn’t pain or exhaustion or nausea that got me choked up, but knowing what a monumental accomplishment it was to run 26.2 miles and still be upright afterwards. (Granted, immediately after getting my medal I went to my running group’s tent and lay down flat on the grass for a few minutes. It was something I just had to do.) I know that marathons aren’t as much of challenge for everyone, and that a majority of runners finish at a faster and more consistent pace than I did, but as a good friend reminded me once, “Everyone gets the same medal at the end.” And I’ll cherish that medal because I had to work so hard to earn it. I run not so much because I love it, but because it’s a challenge. It’s certainly not an activity that comes easily to me. I struggle a lot (way more than I’d like to admit, actually), and I have to train very hard to be successful. I redefine my goals every time I line up to start a race. Maybe I want to finish in a particular time, or maybe I want to run a comfortable, steady pace, or maybe I just want to have fun. I’m not competing with anyone but myself so I set the rules. It’s my life and I do whatever it takes to make myself happy. And tonight I’m happy because the Long Beach Marathon is behind me and I have the medal to prove it.
P.S. My diet today included a lot of sugar. During the marathon I had Sports Beans (Jelly Belly has made my long runs so much tastier), Gu gels (new s’mores and toasted marshmallow flavors), and three 10-oz bottles of Pedialyte (apple, grape, and strawberry). I needed all of it to survive, even at my slow running pace. After I got home from the race I ate whatever I wanted during my marathon recovery. Now my stomach is all weird, though, so I’m looking forward to getting back on the healthy diet bandwagon tomorrow. Stay tuned for more super exciting news about my daily menus!
Before I write about more recent events I’d like to go back and cover a couple of happenings from earlier this year. I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since the 2017 Surf City Half Marathon, which took place on February 5th. That Sunday morning was perfect running weather, cloudy and cool, but unfortunately my running form wasn’t quite as perfect. I was still recovering from my lovely cold/flu/bronchitis combination so my breathing wasn’t what it should be to run 13.1 miles, and my training had fallen off sharply for that reason. But I needed to restart my fitness regimen somehow, and I was feeling much better than even a week earlier, so I arrived for the half marathon with cautious optimism. Before the race started I chatted with a friend about our time goals (I just wanted to finish!) and took a picture with my running group. I was nervous, but ready to get started. And the first few miles of the course were great. I even passed my friend who is usually a lot faster than me around mile 4. That was a surprise. (In her defense, she’d been fighting her own illnesses throughout January as well.) Training for the Disney World Marathon had gotten my body into pretty good shape, and I hadn’t lost all that much in the way of fitness in the month that followed. I did remarkably well for a number of miles, but by mile 10 I was gasping for breath. No surprise after having bronchitis, really. My pace wasn’t suffering too much, but trying to recover during my walk breaks was a losing battle. I passed my running group’s cheer squad and told them I was ok, but couldn’t breathe. The other runners around me overheard and thought I was trying to be funny. They all laughed, but I was being serious! With only about a 5K to go I pushed myself to finish without slowing down. And I did! My official time for the half marathon was 2:37:46 which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either. Not that I’d been expecting much. I was happy to have averaged a 12 min/mile pace for the whole distance. After getting my medal I grabbed a carton of chocolate milk that I’d been looking forward to all morning, and chatted with a couple of friends at the finish line before driving home. Even though it wasn’t my best half marathon showing I was still encouraged. I knew I was only going to get faster and stronger with renewed health and consistent running in the weeks to come. And with the LA Marathon fast approaching I needed all the help I could get.
“So I got my Beach Cities Challenge medal in October, but I must admit that I didn’t really earn it.”
12/20/15 webpage post
On October 9th I got my second Beach Cities Challenge medal, but this time I earned it. In May 2015 I had a co-worker run the OC half marathon for me because I wasn’t healthy enough to run it myself when the race rolled around. So when I picked up my Beach Cities Challenge medal that October I felt like a fraud. To make up for it I vowed to do better in 2016 – and I did! This year I successfully completed the Surf City half marathon, the Orange County half marathon, and the Long Beach half marathon, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
I’ve already written webpage posts about the Surf City half marathon 2016 and the OC half marathon 2016 so I won’t rehash those here. The Long Beach half marathon 2016 was by far the best anyway. By October I had a few things going for me – 1) I’d been training consistently for about 5 months, including over a month of marathon training, 2) I’d lost weight, and 3) I’d already earned a new half marathon PR at the Disneyland half marathon in September. Due to the unusually high temperatures that weekend (similar to the year before) I had no time goal for the Long Beach half, but my running buddy was more ambitious. So we did our best, running as fast as we dared before hitting the most challenging portion of the course. From about mile 6.5 to about mile 9.5 the race follows a walkway on the beach with no shade for protection from the sun, which was high in the sky when we got there. It was not fun, but we survived without slowing down too much. And after that we had to tackle the uphill stretch that led to the finish line. We slowed down a bit there due to the weather and probably some dehydration. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to finish a race! I didn’t check my watch until after we were done, but at that point I discovered that I had earned a new PR – 2:34:18! We didn’t quite meet my running buddy’s goal, but we did pretty well in the heat. I was more than satisfied. And along with my half marathon medal I collected 2016 Beach Cities Challenge medal with pride. I had earned it this year! And I already have plans to complete the challenge again next year. Maybe running one of the full marathons even? We’ll see!
P.S. My current half marathon PR is actually 2:27:44 at the Avengers half marathon in November. Marathon training has done wonders for my personal records!
I’m on a plane to Miami right now where I’ll catch my flight to Tallahassee this afternoon. I paid for extra leg room this time around (worth it for nearly five hours between LA and Miami) so using my laptop is a breeze! Also, there’s an empty seat next to me so I don’t feel like anyone is looking at my screen while I type. I figured I’d take this time to finally write a post about a races from earlier this year that changed the way I run. It was a big deal!
In May of 2015 I was registered for the Orange County half marathon, but ended up skipping it because I was still recovering from my knee injury earlier in the year. Of course I managed to get hurt again in early 2016, but much to my delight I was healthy enough to run the OC half marathon this year. However, I was pretty out of shape when the race rolled around in May. So in order to keep from being completely bored on the course for three hours I decided to run with one of my co-workers and her sister-in-law. They had modest expectations for their finish time so I figured I wouldn’t be holding them back. This was my first introduction to the Galloway Run/Walk/Run Method. Previously I only took short walk breaks about every mile, but that particular strategy broke down after the first seven or eight miles when I couldn’t run a full mile at a time anymore. That made the rest of the race pretty frustrating. But using the Galloway Method during the OC half marathon the other ladies and I ran for 1 min 15 sec and then walked for 40 seconds, repeating those intervals for the whole 13.1 miles. (Mostly. There were a couple of monster hills that we broke down and walked all the way to the top!) This approach to running was completely new to me and it took a while to get used to. Taking a walk break after only running a little over a minute felt really strange at the beginning of the race, but as the miles passed I was amazed at how well the Galloway Method was working for me. I didn’t hit the wall at mile 10 like I usually did during a half marathon, and after we crossed the finish line I actually still had some energy left which, for me, is unheard of. It was a remarkable outcome. My finish time wasn’t anything to be proud of, but I didn’t care. After that day I was resolved to buy an internal timer and join my co-worker’s Galloway running group. I loved it that much! It’s been over five months since then and now I use the run/walk/run method exclusively for my races and other long runs. Like my highly successful 16 mile run last Saturday. I know the Galloway method isn’t right for everyone, but it has worked wonders for me so I’m glad I got the opportunity to try it during the OC half marathon. The course was really beautiful too so I’m looking forward to running it again in 2017.
As a side note, there was one particularly funny moment before the race even started. After getting on the bus from the fairgrounds parking lot to the start line I realized that I hadn’t put any sunscreen on my legs! I slathered it on my arms in the parking lot, but I had completely neglected my legs below the hem of my running capris. So once I got to the start line I started searching through the crowd, looking for someone who might have sunscreen in their bag of supplies that I could borrow. I probably looked creepy, but I was desperate! It took a while, but I finally found someone who had a bottle of sunscreen out and was willing to let me use some. Bless that kind stranger! I would have had lobster legs otherwise!
“I felt like such a fraud collecting my medal after crossing the finish line because it took me significantly over 3 hours to complete that half marathon. Pathetic!”
2/2/15 webpage post
I was so excited to run the Surf City half marathon again, but this time without an injury. This race last year was by far my slowest half marathon and the least enjoyable one I’ve ever run. Luckily after a month of rest things started to improve. My IT band still bugs me occasionally, but not enough to prevent me from running. Thank goodness! So the 2016 Surf City half marathon was my chance for redemption. Despite two great half marathons in January, today didn’t go quite the way I hoped. It started out well, though. Last year I discovered that parking for this race can be a fiasco so I tried a different strategy this time around. I arrived earlier and parked in a more remote lot, right next to a shuttle stop. Stress free parking! The problems started when I walked over to catch the shuttle. At some point between my car and the bus I dropped my timing chip that was supposed to be attached to my shoe. I was going to put it in its proper place after I adjusted my laces at the start line, but the timing chip made a bid for freedom before then. This was problematic for a number of reasons. Not only would I not get an official finish time, but I wouldn’t get credit for completing the race at all. This wouldn’t be a big deal if not for the Beach Cities Challenge (Surf City + Orange County + Long Beach). I haven’t decided whether I want to run all three of the races this year, but my initial thought is that I want to try. (The OC half is the only one that’s really up in the air right now because I already have two other half marathons in May. I’m still considering whether I’m crazy enough to add a third.) But if I want a chance to earn the new sand dollar Beach Cities Challenge medal I need to get credit for the Surf City half marathon. But that was a situation I would address after crossing the finish line.
The next problem of the day was the weather. We’re having a little heat wave in Los Angeles right now. It’s not nearly as bad as the scorching summer that was had last year, but warm and sunny are not the ideal conditions for long distance running. And the fact that the half marathon didn’t start until almost 8 AM didn’t help. Despite a little bit of a cool breeze off the Pacific, the whole race was really uncomfortable. After the first two miles I was rethinking my wardrobe. Shorts and a tank top would have been a better choice than the capris and short-sleeve shirt that I chose. I’m not sure if these unfavorable circumstances themselves caused my poor performance today or whether it was a combination of factors, but I was exhausted by the second mile. My body just didn’t cooperate today so there was a lot of walking involved in this “run.” I was so glad to make it to the finish line! It wasn’t my slowest half marathon, but it was close. Luckily my only goal for the race was to finish it, so in that sense I was completely successful. (The focus of 2016 is going to be distance rather than speed. This will become apparent when I start marathon training in the fall.) After collecting my medal (which is gigantic this year for the 20th anniversary) I headed over to the expo tents to figure out what to do about my errant timing chip. I ended up telling my admittedly ridiculous story to a race administrator who then took down all of my information for further review. Hopefully she will be able to verify that I did indeed complete the race today so I can get credit for it. That would make all of the discomfort worthwhile. Beach Cities Challenge 2016, here I come! Hopefully.
“So I missed out on getting a Long Beach race medal this year, but I’m not really all that upset about it. I’m already planning to do the Beach Cities Challenge next year, which means three half marathons in 2015 – Huntington Beach in February, Orange County in May, and Long Beach in October. It might take a bit longer, but I’ll get that medal eventually!
10/17/14 webpage post
So I got my Beach Cities Challenge medal in October, but I must admit that I didn’t really earn it. In February I was injured for the Surf City half marathon so it was a miserable experience. I did complete the race, but I was slow and in a lot of pain. I walked the last 5 miles due to my knee problems, which was really frustrating. Luckily after a couple of months of recuperation I was able to get back to running regularly again. However, when the OC half marathon rolled around in May I just wasn’t ready for it (and I didn’t want to overdo it before the Tinkerbell half marathon a week later – priorities!), so one of my co-workers ran it with my bib. He finished it a full hour faster than I would have! I felt a little guilty taking credit for a race that I didn’t run, but the registration would have gone to waste otherwise. I swear that I’ll cross the finish line legitimately one of these years (2016 is still up in the air), but for the sake of the Beach Cities Challenge I checked the box for 2015.
The Long Beach half marathon is the only one of the three races that I really ran this year. I was finally healthy and back in some semblance of shape, but that weekend in October was so hot that it wasn’t pleasant. The half marathon was scheduled to start at 7:30 AM, but the weather forecast was so bleak that the participants were given the option of starting at 6 AM with the full marathoners. That was really helpful because we were able to get quite a few miles behind us before the sun really started beating down. Actually, I felt pretty good until about the halfway point. But about three miles in the middle of the course are on a beach path with absolutely no shade, so that’s where the heat really started taking its toll. Before then I was maintaining a decent pace, but I slowed down significantly after mile 7. Believe it or not, I finished the race with a respectable time (for me), so I can only imagine how much better it would have been in cooler weather. If I can fit next year’s race into my marathon training plan (yikes!) I might try it again to see if I can improve on my performance. After the half marathon was complete I collected my Beach Cities Challenge medal. It’s hanging in my cubical at work, along with all my other 2015 race medals, partially for bragging rights, and partially as a reminder that I want 2016 to be different. I probably won’t complete the Beach Cities Challenge in 2016 (skipping the OC half marathon seems likely), but some other year I’ll earn it without cutting any corners.