In "A Tale of Two Cities", Charles Dickens opens the novel by writing, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,..." and makes a contrast between life if England and life in France. This quote can also apply to my adventures at the Los Angeles Marathon yesterday. All I can say it that it will be a long time before I use a chocolate flavored Power Gel on a run again.
My adventure really begins early Saturday morning when I had to get up at 3:30 am and run around my neighborhood trying to calibrate the foot pod on my new Polar R400 HR monitor. I went out and ran 1500 meters only to be given the message that the foot pod failed to calibrate. Dang! So I ran it again. Once again, it failed to calibrate. Damn it!! Oh, I guess it would help to turn the foot pod on. Doh'! So I ran it again. As I did that I kept thinking that it was the last thing I needed to be doing the day before my marathon. The calibration worked and then it was 4:30 by this time and I had to rush to get a shower, eat, and grab my bag and head to the airport for the 7 am flight.
Once I got to LA, I had to wait on Johnny Tri to pick me up. Seems he overslept and was on the other side of town. I let it slide, and figured maybe I would see someone famous leaving LAX. No luck there but I did see lots of people who probably wished they were famous, HA! Once JT picked me up, we drove to the LA Convention center for packet pick up and the expo. They had a really great expo that was all over the place. For $79 you could get your teeth whitened, sign up for vacation rentals in Napa Vally, or register for a pair of ticked to see the musical Wicked... ...and pose with monkeys. JT and I kinda look like a deranged Harry Potter and Hermonie with those glasses on. Dang that was fun. There was no one at the booth when we walked up and then everyone started crowding the booth for a picture. What a hoot. Oh yeah, they also had booths to buy running shoes and clothing. My brush with fame was one of the "It was the best of times..." experiences. I got to meet Bob Babbit, the famous Ironman and publisher of Competitor Magazine. I was kind of star struck! I think Bob was sincerely flattered that I was excited to meet him and asked to take a picture with him. He was working the Competitor Magazine booth and handing out stuff to people and telling them about the Muddy Buddy race series. My big purchase was a bracelet with a silver tag that had the word PERSEVERE stamped into it. I am not sure why that word struck a cord with me, but I wanted to buy that bracelet. Little did I know what significance that word would have to me in the next 24 hours.
After grabbing lunch and checking in to the hotel, JT had to run to do some stuff and I got a call from a guy I coached last year telling me that he received an interview for Pharmacy school at Purdue University. I was so excited for him. That is such an accomplishment. Now he just has to get accepted. I think he will. So I killed some time by walking over to Macy's and looking around, grabbing a Subway sandwich for dinner, and watching Anchorman and Batman Begins as I got my race gear ready. JT rolled in around 12:30. What a party animal. I don't think either of us slept well. It felt like i laid quietly with my eyes closed for 6 and a half hours more than anything.
Race day was bright and sunny and it was going to get warm. I had a long sleeve cotton shirt that I was going to toss after the start. It was warm enough that gloves and an ear band were not needed. I knew that it was going to get hot so my plan was to keep my salt intake in check and start the fluids early. JT and I took the subway with hundreds of other runners up to the North Hollywood station for the start. It was cool when we got there but as soon as the sun came up it started to warm up. We stood in line for the port-o-cans and when we made it up to the front, there was no toilet paper. I only had to wiz so I was ok, JT decided that we needed to move down to the next bank of cans and find a new line. Of course our line was moving slower than the lines on either side of us. Once we got to the front, no toilet paper again. That is when my love and friendship for my buddy Johnny Tri was put to the ultimate test. He asked for my shirt. WTF!!! He stated I was just going to toss it along the road, I might as well just hand it over then and there so it could be put to good use. OMG!!! The image of my white long sleeve Old Navy shirt being used as substitute toilet paper has been forever ingrained in my brain, never to be removed. I told JT that there would come a day that I would get him back for this. After more thought, there are other shirts that I have that would have been better used to do the job and would have provided more comedy rather than shock for me.
We made our way to the start and got the HR monitors going. Mine was nice at 71 and JT was nervous at 87. This was his first marathon since 2004. We listened to a few tunes on my iPod and then it was time to start shuffling over the start line with close to 20,000 others. The temps were fantastic and I saw so many people who were over dressed. What impressed me the most was the huge number of school kids who were running the marathon. They were running for a program called Students Run Los Angeles. They were really impressive kids to watch, especially at mile 15, 21, and headed to the finish. I had turned on my foot pod (or at least I thought I had) and started my timer. It took us 10 minutes to get to the start line.
I hung with JT for the first mile and then I started finding my groove. I kept my heart rate in check and started my Powerbar Endurance fluids early. I talked with a guy who was asking me about Team in Training and he said he wanted to sign up. I encouraged him to do so and then we parted ways. My first landmark to run by was Mulholand Dr. and then The Hollywood Bowl. As we made our way down into Hollywood we passed tons of spectators. There was an area where a whole bunch of them were out on the side of the street and on ladders with fishing poles extended out over the runners with donuts, packages of sno-balls, and ding-dongs...man that was funny. We ran past the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and then into a rather ritzy neighborhood.
No luck of seeing anyone famous. I was feeling great and my heart rate was in good order. I was right on schedule with my fluids and nutrition. My 10K split was listed at 1:00 and my watch said something like 51 minutes since there was gun time and chip time. We ran into a area that looked like it was "China Town". I could not read any of the shop signs and there were Taiko Drummers, acrobats, and Kung-Fu schools out with their students along the sides of the road. I passed two men running BAREFOOT around mile 9. HFS!!! That is crazy. I was still feeling good but it was getting warm. I tried to run in the shade of buildings as much as I could. Here I am running past the Olympic Stadium where the 1984 Summer Olympics took place.
Around mile 12 I figured I had better consider a port-o-can stop in the next mile and then I took in THE CHOCOLATE POWERGEL. It sat in my stomach like a rock. All the other flavors I had with me had done ok and I was doing a good job keeping tabs on the S-Caps and fluids. But that chocolate gel was thick like paste rather than runny like honey. As a result, nothing was draining out of my stomach and I was starting to get the swimming pool feel in the gut. According to my watch, I hit the 13 mile mark at 2:05 or around there. From mile 13 to 14 I started getting a cramp in my right side that was positioned to the right and below my belly button. It really hurt. When I dug my thumb up into it I could keep running but if I removed my thumb it was too painful to run. Mile 14 to 16 was running and walking with that cramp that soon moved up under my fuel belt and started moving all the way across the front of my torso. It caused some nausea just because the muscle cramping was so severe. I had to switch to taking in some oranges and water and once or twice I had to swallow back down stuff that was coming up the pipes. I knew that if I threw up the race was over. I could not take in any fluids because that made the cramping worse and I would feel like doubling over. I power walked from 16 to 19.5 and when the nausea went away and I could feel that my stomach had started to drain I tried to run again. I had thought about sticking my finger down my throat to get it over with but there were too many spectators that I would have grossed out, so I kept power walking past the Staples Center and other parts of town. Other than the legs being a little tight they were fine but as soon as I tried to sip on Gatorade or water the cramps under the fuel belt came back. I went back to walking and I think I ran some more around mile 22, but that only lasted a quarter of a mile. I kept to the middle of the street so that JT could see me if he caught up to me and I would have a familiar face to see. I wanted to die it hurt so bad but I kept telling myself that the letters D, N, and F were not in my alphabet. I got a call from Johnny Tri to see where I was just ahead of mile 24 and he said he was a mile behind me and that I better pick it up if I was going to finish under 5 hours. I looked at that bracelet on my arm with the word that intrigued me so much the day before. PERSEVERE. Quiting was not an option. I gutted it up and ran the rest of the way in.
When I was running I was passing lots of people who had been run-walking around me for a while. No fluids, no nutrition, no S-caps! All I could do was to zone out and stare at the sky and rely on my peripheral vision to not run into anyone. The last quarter mile to the finish line was up hill and as soon as I crossed the line and stopped the cramps hit me like a brick wall. My finish time of 4:55 was not the best or even the slowest marathon time I have had but this was by far the hardest one that I have done. I was dragged to the med tent but I told them all I needed was some cold Gatorade and if they had any potato chips that I would take them. Sitting down I was better and I took in the Gatorade in small sips to make sure it stayed down. I was far better off than the other poor souls in there hooked up to IV drips and retching their guts out. As soon as I finished my Gatorade and signed the release, I was out of there.
I found Johnny Tri soon after his 5:14 finish (CONGRATULATIONS BUDDY!!!) and he showed me an inspirational quote that was on his Blackberry. I have to get it from him and when I do, I will post it here because it was so appropriate to our race that we just finished. We made our way out of the finisher's shute and into the after party. As we were walking back to the hotel to get the car, my abs were wanting to cramp up again. That sucked! It was cool walking in the shade of the buildings and I know JT was wanting my foil wrapper that I had bundled about me since I did not have my long sleeve shirt to snuggle into...JT, I'm gonna get you back for that one of these days. Once the car pulled around we looked at the time and saw that it was 3 pm!!! I had to be to the airport at 4:15 to get checked in for my flight. The hotel would not give late check out so we had loaded out bags in the car before we left for the start line. So we loaded in the car still in our race gear and headed for the airport. I felt so sorry for the person that was going to have to sit next to me and my marathon funk on the plane ride home. We were hungrier than bears after hibernation and we had to find some food. All that I had after the race was the cup of Gatorade and a package of McDonald's apple slices. We pulled off before the airport entrance and found a Chipotle's burrito joint that was across the parking lot from a Walgreen's. I dodged into Walgreen's and purchased a travel package of baby wipes and a can of spray deodorant while JT ordered burritos and beer. I took my back pack into the bathroom of Chipotle's and proceeded to take a "whore's bath" with the baby wipes and sprayed down with anti-perspirant/deodorant before changing into clean clothes and washing my hair in the sink with the liquid soap. There were a couple of cops having a burrito and I think that they were slightly amused at us stumbling into Chipotle's looking the way we did. JT said that one of the cops asked him if he had just finished the marathon. When he said yes, the cop answered that he thought so since JT looked like he was stiff and moving kinda slow. LOL, it wasn't the race gear or the finisher's medals that gave it away. Johnny Tri had woofed down his burrito before I did my Superman phone booth change and all I can say is that those were the best chicken soft tacos and Corona beer that I have ever had.
It was time to head to the airport to get checked in. I was sad to be leaving my good friend Johnny Tri because I won't see him again until we go to Switzerland in June for the 70.3 Ironman. Thank you JT for your words of encouragement and motivating me to get my butt moving again. When I was praying for anything to end my suffering, the angels in that city must have heard me and told you to give me a call. You said exactly the right words that I needed to hear. You truly are the best bud that anyone could ask for.
"...it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way..."
I had spent 5 hours and 26.2 miles living each one of those emotions and experiences yesterday morning. Because I do these crazy events, people have come to expect more out of me. I could not let them down. I had to do this for my kid, for my athletes that I coach, for my personal training clients, for the people who come to my classes, for my training buddies, for my Honored Teammates. When things were at their darkest and the light at the end of the tunnel was not visible, somehow I found the ability to keep moving forward. The race was not over. I was not willing to accept defeat even when I wanted it all to end and it felt like the odds were stacked against me. I had persevered and endured. I had to show them that even the strong people have bad days and it is how you deal with those setbacks that defines the person that you are. As I made my way to the gate with my finisher's medal on, I had several people tell me congratulations and some asked me if I had won. I love folks like that. They are so naive about what we ultra endurance nuts do for fun that anything is a huge accomplishment. Actually, what I had done was a huge accomplishment! "So how did you do?" I finished! The weather was great and I got a sunburn. The volunteers were awesome and the course was interesting. The lessons that I learned were huge and the insight to what makes me the person that I am is priceless.
Oh, here is the quote that JT shared with me...
"Success is not measured by what you accomplish but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."
--- Orison Swett Marden
Hopefully you enjoyed the recap of the events and possibly you might be intrigued to give the LA Marathon a go one day. It might just change who you are.
All the best!