An amazing weekend doesn’t begin to describe it. When ASICS put together a team of runners for the 2014 LA Marathon Blogger Challenge, I was honored to be included. It was a great list of fellow bloggers that I am a fan of and follow. Add in a pre-race party, VIP treatment, a shakeout run with elite runners and Olympians, a marathon and a celebration dinner and it becomes a weekend of epic proportions.
It all began Friday morning when I flew from San Francisco to LA with Jamie. We met each other a couple weeks ago and we chatted the whole way about all the things runners and bloggers talk about. When we landed we had a few hours of downtime before the ASICS VIP party. Me and Jamie arrived at the hotel around the same time as Rachel, so we decided to take a walk along the beach and grab a late-lunch.
Friday night, we all gathered in the lobby to head over to the ASICS VIP party and officially got to introduce ourselves. The team was made up of Anne, Beth, Ryan, Jess, Mark, Michele, Monica, Rachel, Kristin and Jamie, many I was meeting for the first time. We were dressed up all fancy like and got to know each other a bit more. At the party, we were able to socialize with each other and fellow runners. We were hosted with refreshments, cocktails, food, entertainment, course preview and we were each given a VIP pack with an exclusive hoodie, socks and shoes.
Saturday morning, we were scheduled for a shakeout run with Andrew and Deena Kastor, Andy Potts, Ryan Hall, and Alysia Montano. If you are unfamiliar, click on their links and be amazed by their talent. The run ended up being around 5k and we were all pretty stoked to be running together. After the run, we posed for some photos and had breakfast together while Coach Andrew Kastor dropped some pre-race knowledge on us. He had been helping us out leading up to the race, but hearing his pep talk and advice got me excited to run. Deena, Ryan and Andy also shared some advice. Rachel did a good job of recapping if you want to read more.
After a quick trip to the expo Saturday afternoon and an early dinner, it was time to get ready for the reason we were all there: to race. We boarded a bus early in the morning to be taken to the start line at Dodger Stadium. We were also able to take advantage of some more VIP treatment with being able to prepare for the race inside the stadium with a private bag check, pre-race breakfast and of course, a REAL restroom. We were not there that long, as we soon had to make our way down to the starting corrals.
I couldn’t help but notice that my race bib did not have a letter on it and others did. I misunderstood a section of the registration process that asked for a qualifying time to be placed in a seeded corral. To me, that meant for the elite athletes that were looking to win this thing or at least runners that were in the sub-3 hour range. I guess not. This meant I was unable to start with any pace group faster than 5:30 hours. Ouch. This meant I was going to be pacing myself and doing a lot of weaving early on to find some open space.
Game plan: try to keep as close to an 8-min pace the entire time being aware of the uphill/downhill along the way. Coach Kastor let us know that after 22 it is flat to downhill the rest of the way. If I can maintain an 8-min pace and drift to sub-8 for any of the last 4 miles, then I’d finish below 3:30.
Mile 1: 9:00
Mile 2: 7:46
Mile 3: 8:09
Mile 4: 7:47
Mile 5: 8:30
The first mile was pretty difficult to maneuver through. I was doing a lot of weaving which also meant a lot of acceleration to pass people and deceleration when I couldn’t move. The splits look good, but I think these first few miles took some energy out of me early on.
Mile 6: 8:11
Mile 7: 8:01
Mile 8: 7:49
Mile 9: 8:15
Mile 10: 8:07
These miles opened up a bit and I had some room to find my pace and get comfortable. I remember looking at my watch and being happy with the splits. I needed to maintain an 8 min pace for sub 3:30, and I’m pretty close to that which is surprising — I was worried that I might drift to my mid-week pace around 7:30-45 and go out to fast.
Mile 11: 7:55
Mile 12: 8:06
Mile 13: 8:25
First Half: 1:46:01
I was surprised by this number. I figured with the first few miles of weaving, I would be further behind my needed split of 1:45 for a sub-3:30 finish. My legs feel pretty good at this point and reaching the half-way point on pace was a confidence booster. My game plan stays in tact… make it to mile 22 and make up the minute on the downhill.
Mile 14: 8:36
Mile 15: 8:05
Mile 16: 8:16
I’ve been good up until this point… but something happens here.
Mile 17: 8:54
Mile 18: 8:49
Mile 19: 8:53
I can’t point to anything specifically. It’s been warm most of the day and I began to feel salt on my face before mile 10. I’ve been taking in the right amount of hydration/fuel and making a point to take some extra as well. I’ve been dumping water on myself to help keep cool (tip from Andy Potts), but the heat is starting to take its toll. At this point, I realize that my pace has dropped significantly. I know that sub 3:30 is gone, but if I can make it to mile 22 at a 9 minute pace, there is still a chance for me to PR if I take advantage of the downhill on the last 4 miles.
Even though I feel tired, I remember how I felt in Arizona and basically fell apart. I remember looking at my splits after AZ and seeing that if I kept pushing, there was a chance I could have PR’d. I keep that thought in my mind. I remember to just keep moving forward. Just keep hitting the miles, even if it feels slower, JUST. KEEP. RUNNING. I channel my inner EMZ and keep plugging along.
Mile 20: 9:46
Mile 21: 10:29
Mile 20 was a good uphill climb and during mile 21, my calf just seized up. One of the worst cramps I’ve had in a race. I had to hobble over to the curb and stretch it out. Game over. I lost sub 3:30 at mile 17 and lost my PR at mile 21.
My overall time at mile 20 was 2:47 minutes. All I had to do was keep a sub-9 pace for miles 21-26 and I had a PR… with the last 4 miles being downhill/flat. Umph. That one hurts.
Mile 22: 11:09
Mile 23: 12:59
Mile 24: 12:19
Mile 25: 11:40
Mile 26: 9:48
26.2 Miles: 3:59:47
If you are looking for a photo-recap of the course, check out Anne’s post here, she ran with her camera.
It was a don’t-cramp-any-more kind of shuffle for the last 5 miles. I ran as fast as I could muster that last half mile to make it under 4 hours — take small victories where you can get ’em. I crossed the finish line and was waved down by ASICS crew. Alysia Montano asked me how I was doing and I’m sure I said something about being tired, hot and happy. She placed the medal around my neck (I know, right?) and posed for a picture with me. Even when I’m cramping and tired, hell yes, I’d love a photo with a rock star (and I’m on the hunt for that photo).
After a change and a shower, I met up with other members of the blogger team and fellow runners/crew. We exchanged stories of how our days went and most of us battled the heat in our own way, but finished with smiles. We congratulated each other and posed for some photos with our medals. Some of us headed over to the pool to get our tired legs in the cold water. Other runners made it over to the beach, which I’m sure was WAY colder and better for recovery, but you can have “refreshments” by the pool. Again, small victories.
I know I missed my goal and I missed it bad, but I ran a REALLY strong race. I actually felt that this race was a stronger race than AZ even though my time was 10 minutes slower… I just lost to the elements. Could I have fueled better? Probably. If I had started with the 3:30 pace group, would that have helped? Maybe. Did I burn too much energy weaving? Possible. But I think the overall takeaway is that the warm weather just took its toll on me more than I wanted to admit early on. I went for it and crashed. Plain and simple. I gave it my all and left everything out there… it’s all I could ask from my body.
That night, the ASICS crew and blogger team headed out to dinner. I had to geek out a little when I sat down in between Deena Kastor and Alysia Montano. A few seconds later when Michelle Lovitt sat down across from me, I was on full-blown “oh-my-gosh-this-is-too-freaking-cool” mode. But I kept my cool, I think. It was an amazing end to an amazing weekend and being surrounded by friends, new and old, made it all the sweeter. I know I always say that I am continuously amazed by this community, but being able to experience it with fellow runners in person and feeling the love on social media is overwhelming.
I highly recommend checking out their blogs if you are not already huge fans:
Monica from Run, Eat, Repeat
Rachel from Running Rachel
Jess from Race Pace Jess
Ryan from I Tri Because I Can
Jamie from Fit Approach
Mark from Marathon O My
Anne from fANNEtastic Food
Kristin from STUFT Mama
Michele from NYC Running Mama
Beth from Shut Up and Run
A special thank you to ASICS for allowing us to be a part of this challenge and creating a wonderful weekend for all of us. From the training plan with Coach Kastor to the ASICS crew that hooked us up with gear and the team that kept us rowdy bloggers on schedule, and of course to the elite athletes that allowed us to take #allthephotos and for being really cool and down-to-earth in person.
And, of course, for hosting this $150 giveaway. The two winners were announced and notified.
Thank you to everyone that shared their love on social. It inspires, motivates, and most importantly, humbles me.