After four months of training marathon weekend had finally arrived. We drove out in the pouring rain to stop by the expo and get my race bib. The expo was huge and it was cool to be right outside of Dodger stadium but we arrived late and it was cold and wet so a long stay was not in the cards. I checked in and got my bib but then went over to the store to have my number ironed onto a new technical tee. This was a really cool option because it allowed me to leave the paper bib off my clothes in order to avoid chaffing. My mom also bought me a birthday present, a frame to hold my medal, race picture, and engraved finishing time. That would be a really cool addition to my office if and only if I finished under my goal pace. Before we left I found my pace time starting area to take a before picture.
We left the expo and headed over to the Millennium Biltmore hotel to get checked in. After a few minutes waiting we dropped off the car and got up to the room. It was really nice to be at such a high end hotel at a much cheaper race rate. Even the parking was discounted for people running in the marathon. A few hours later we headed over to Scarpetta for my prerace carbo load dinner. Take a look at my most recent review for info on that amazing meal. After dinner we settled in to get a good night sleep but of course adrenaline and anxiety took over. I spent the next seven hours having my trademark weird dreams followed by an accelerated heart beat which only allowed me to sleep for a few hours. Completely expected but still really annoying.
At 5am I got out of bed and began to get ready for the race. We left to drive over to Dodger stadium and I made my first of two tactical errors. I listened to the guy at check in and tried to take the side streets right to the stadium. To my dismay every access point was closed so after 15 minutes of driving around we were finally forced onto the highway like all the other idiot drivers. Traffic was ridiculous and it took us almost 45 minutes to get through the one open entrance to the stadium. I even had to get out of the car and let my mom park so I could get in line for the bathroom. Next year we stay at a hotel closer to Santa Monica because the shuttles were able to get in a different way and the travel time was much shorter. The second tactical error was not filling up my water bottles at the hotel because the bathroom lines made it impossible for me to leave and get that stuff ready. I had to send my mom on an expedition to find water or else I would have been in a bad way. Last note of prerace, they did not have nearly enough bathrooms. I spent thirty minutes waiting in line and came dangerously close to missing the start of the race.
In an uncomfortable hurry up offense, I made it to the start with five minutes to spare, no real stretching this race. The starting area was jammed with people and there was no way that I would made it to the 9:00 pace time so I just started in the back with the goal of catching up. The good thing is that this allowed Virginia to get some final pictures before the race began. Finally, it was time. The gun went off and I got ready to run. But, wait, seventeen thousand other people had the same idea so after a very slow ten minute walk I made it over the start and we were on our way. I guess I did have time to stretch after all.
And I was off! Marathon #1 here we go! A note on the weather, it was beautiful. Everyone was so fearful because of last year’s run and the fact that it was cold and pouring on Saturday. Somehow it all worked out and it was 55 degrees, no wind, and a mix of cloudy and sunny. You could not ask for better running weather, thank god I didn’t try and layer or I would have been a mess. The first mile was just me getting the nervousness out and finding my pace time. At mile two things went a little awry, a guy bumped into me and messed up my runmeter app (stupid me for not locking it). It took me a little bit to fix it but I wouldn’t notice the real impact until mile 25 so I will talk about that later.
Here was the next issue. At races they generally have pace leaders who hold signs stating the pace and finish time. I came upon a group of people with balloons of the number nine. A few of those people had shirts that said “Pace Leader” so I made the stupid assumption that this was the nine minute mile pace. I settled in with them but after a few updates from my phone saying that I was pacing at ten minutes, I realized that something was wrong. I decided to speed up and spent a few miles running at my own pace. About 45 minutes later I came upon a person holding a real placard as an actual pace card holder. It turns out the people I was following were just a team and that was group number nine. Frustrating! Well, this person was the 9:30 pace leader and I had to average 9:09 to hit my pace time so at this point I was already a few minutes behind my goal. This meant that I had to pick up my pace progressively as the race went on. Not ideal but I was determined.
As we all settled into the race things got pretty smooth. Most of this race was slightly downhill which was very nice and allowed for me to set in a pace and cruise along. The amount of support for this race was amazing. Almost every mile there were dozens of people giving out a variety of snacks, drinks, and encouragement. I tried to stay away from these things because you never know how they will impact you and I had all my supplements in my waist belt. One thing that I was all over were the Vaseline boards. Yes, people were standing every so often with post board covered with Vaseline. You could just run by and swipe some off and use as you needed. I learned my lesson in Seattle so I made sure to hit these folks up quite often. Awesome!
I reached the halfway point feeling good but I was still three minutes behind my goal at 2:03. I knew that I could not sustain a faster pace to make this time up so a new game plan was needed. What I then decided to do was to run a nine minute pace for 25 minutes and then accelerate to a seven minute pace for 5 minutes and repeat that for the rest of the race. It was my hope that this would get me back under my goal pace by the time we hit Santa Monica. This would allow me to activate different muscle groups and have time to recover.
We ran through Hollywood and past the stars and street artists and soon hit Beverly Hills. I waived to Scarpetta and ran through Rodeo drive. This was really cool and they had a huge screen that people could use to send messages to their friends running the race. As we reached mile 20 it started to get a little rough and I was running out of water so I had to spend some time refilling at water stations. Throughout this race people were sending me messages over my apps and it was at this time that I needed their support the most. I thank them all for sending me encouragement throughout the day; I was empowered and energized by the outpouring of support from across the country.
After mile 22 and getting into mile 23 my knee started to ache and I was getting winded. I was struggling to conserve water and I was out of gels so it was time to abandon all plans and go for the support on the sidewalks. I started shoveling in gummy bears, pretzels, fruit, and PowerAde until I made it to the one Clif Energy Shot station. I still can’t believe that they only had one station, some half marathons I’ve run had three or more so this was the one part of the race that ticked me off. I grabbed two shots and finally all the sugar and carbs kicked in and carried me to mile 25.
At this point my phone had been telling me that I was on track to finish under my goal time but then the phone issue from mile 2 came back to haunt me. A few minutes after I passed under the archway claiming “Mile 25!” my phone spoke to me and said, “You’ve made it to Mile 26!” It was at this time that I realized that my tracking was off by 8/10 of a mile. Now, though my phone said my pace was on track I was actually still way behind. I had been running much slower than I thought so now my goal was at major risk.
In a complete panic, I picked up the pace. Soon I was crossing under the seven minute per mile pace and continued to speed up. My phone soon told me that I was done but I had yet to hit mile 26. It was now time to focus solely on the actual elapsed time and it soon hit 3:55. I had five minutes left and the mile 26 archway was in view. I blew by that marker and rounded the final turn to Ocean Ave in Santa Monica. At this point I was in a full sprint with only a few minutes left. I took the side of the road to avoid on the hobbling and tired people passing dozens every few seconds. People were reaching hands out for high fives and I was ducking under them in stride. With less than a minute left I was a few hundred feet away from the end when I heard my mom yell out “Go Steven!” I looked back real quick and then pressed ahead.
I crossed the finish line at the fastest pace all day with my arms held high in victory! The clock read 4:06 but I knew it was not my chip time because of the bottleneck at the start. I looked at my phone and it said I was indeed under four hours but still unofficial. I walked through the finish, received my medal, ate some snacks and made my way to my mom and Virginia. Soon we were on the way to the car but I was still wondering my official time. Finally, the texts came in and my time was official 3:59:33! I made it and my goal was realized. My last mile was completed in 6:30 and that last sprint was the only think that pushed me over the top. Tired but filled with endorphins it was time to shower at the hotel and head over to our victory dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. The LA Marathon was a great race, well planned, with a beautiful course. I will be back next year with a goal of 3:45!