Monday, March 21, 2011

Wet and Wonderful - LA Marathon Race Report

The day started dark and early at 4 and I managed to get the wife and kid in the car by 4:30 as we headed out to Dodger Stadium. Thankfully, the traffic, though still bad, was better than last year. Only took about 30 minutes to go the last 2 miles. Made it to the stadium just before 6AM, but my hoped for mini-loop meetup with Alice and 50Stater at left field was a bust. Probably traffic related.

So we had some time to kill. It was low 50's and windy, but not raining yet. About 6:45 I headed for the port a johns and thankfully found very small lines! 2 minutes tops. Then it was time to strip down and get in my corral. Said goodbye to the family and headed into the mob.

So I turn on my Garmin, and...nothing. Blank screen. Panicked, I decide to break down and actually talk to a stranger, because I know someone knows the reset trick, and almost everyone has a Garmin. First try, a guy holds two buttons and gets it going. Phew!
So I have a seat on the ground and try to relax. The race starts late again due to course clearance issues. I chat with a guy from San Francisco. Eventually it is time to go.
So my race plan is to try and take it easy, and treat it like a training run - maybe 8:30 to 8:20 pace for the first 10 miles and then see how it goes. I have had muscle problems for several weeks that made even easy runs painful, but I have been able to run through them. Still, I am nervous because I didn't have these issues when I was doing all my long runs.
So, we're off. Literally within 2 minutes the first rain drops are felt. Woo Hoo! Bring it!

It's a little crowded getting out of the parking lot, but it opens up by 1/2 mile and I feel good. The next two miles are a pretty good downhill and Garmin tells me it is too fast so I try to take it easy. Still, 1st 4 splits: 8:24, 7:38, 8:00, 7:56. It is looking a lot like last year's splits. Mile 2, Garmin says Low Battery. WTF! I charged it yesterday! Whatever, I press enter and keep plugging.

My problematic glute/ham/calf are a little sore already, but it's more of a dull ache that I can run through. I figure I'll just keep going as long as it will let me and see what happens. Miles 5 and 6 have steep uphills so the splits drop to 8:21 and 8:12. Still too fast, but I feel relaxed and good.

Mile 6 the heavens opened up. Heavy downpour for 10 minutes and we are soaked to the skin. Wet socks, wet everything. I say a little thank you to myself for remembering my nipple bandaids. Although it is pouring hard off and on for most of the race, it really didn't bother me. On the contrary, it kept my temperature low. I was glad I had done a 3 hour training run in the rain, because I knew I could do it and I didn't need to worry about the rain. I didn't have any serious blister problems or chafing. Yay for hi-tech modern materials!
Miles 7-16 are mostly flat on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards and I am cruising in a groove. 7:42, 7:56, 8:05, 7:56, 7:53, 7:54, 8:10, 8:06, 7:42 (big downhill), 8:08.

Most of the inflatable mile markers are down. The crowds are down from last year by at least 50%, but still, it is incredible how many people are out cheering in the rain. And the hundreds of volunteers are awesome! Mile 16, I go through West Hollywood and only a few drag queens are out this year. Mile 17 is Beverly Hills and I take my 3rd GU (Gu'd at 7,12,17 and 22). Took a small pleasure in littering my GU on Rodeo Drive. Mile 18 was supposed to be a Guinness record for most cheerleaders in one spot, but they bailed in the rain. There was one group left - good for them.

Mile 17 my pace started to drag. I was tiring, but I still felt OK - better than last year. 17 -19 was 8:26, 8:24, 8:25. I got to see my family at 18. A little brief cheer that makes all the difference.

Last year I was hurting at this point and had my first walk before 20 miles. This year I was feeling better. Felt like I could just keep swimming for quite a ways yet. Went by the gigantic Mormon temple and thought of some Mormon loopsters. And then I saw a familiar face behind a giant camera lens. Junblack! He gave me some words of motivation and it was great to see him just before mile 20.

At 18.7 miles my Garmin shut off. Not sure if it was the rain or the battery. As I was fading, I figured it was for the best as I didn't need to check every tenth of a mile to see how far the next mile marker was. Or see how slow I was going. Each mile had a clock so I had an idea of my speed. Plus I got 5K splits later from the website, so I estimated some mile splits for the rest of the way. Mile 20 was about 9:00 as I was shortening my stride and slowing a bit. But I made it through 20 in 2:42:20, so I was still ahead of schedule and just needed to survive the last 6 better than last year. No problem!

In mile 21 I got another boost as I passed a coworker who was running part of the course (10-24) for "fun". We chatted a bit. Then we hit a river running down the street that we had to go through. Ankle deep water for 3 steps. But my socks and shoes held up fine. In mile 22 the streets were flooded and we all went up on the sidewalk for 2 blocks. 21-24 were about 9:20, 9:30, 9:45, 9:50. Yes I was shuffling and getting passed a lot, but I was still running. No walk breaks yet. Had to stop once in 22 when my hamstring cramped up, but it passed and I kept going. Finally at the 24 mile mark, I decided I needed a little break and walked for 30 seconds. I was starting to lose my form and really get sore. The rest of the way was just one step at a time. Just keep swimming. I took two more short walk breaks at about 24.7 and 25.2, but then I was at the beach with the finish in sight. I kept up the shuffling all the way in. Last 2+ miles were at about 10:30 pace. But I MADE IT! Final time 3:44:15. Beat last year's course record and age-group PR by 8 minutes! Woo Hoo! I threw out a bangle pump for the cameras. Hopefully I will have that for you later.

After the finish was the hardest part of the day. It was raining hard, and winds of 20-30 mph. I was soaked with just the paper wrap thing, and I had to walk 8 blocks into the wind to get to the family meeting area. It was brutal. Every step hurt, and I was shivering like crazy. I walked with one guy who just finished who said he had to be at work in 2 hours! Finally I made it and thankfully found my family and got some clothes on. Hundreds of people were treated for hypothermia. It was brutal. But eventually I made it home, had my ultimate cheeseburger, shower and a nap.

Today I am sore, but not too bad for marathon sore. Very happy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Bangle Chronicles - Episode 6 - Revenge

So if you have been through episodes 1-5, you have almost my entire marathon history. In case you missed any of the first 5, they can all be found down below. Basically 3 good races in Minnesota, and two cr@ppy bonkers in LA.

After the last marathon failure, I slipped back into half-a$$ runner mode. Occasional 5 and 10Ks, less mileage, not too serious, but never quitting either. In '04 and '05 I ran some 5Ks with my son (no stroller) as he was big enough to run most of the way. Later in '07 he actually beat me in a 5K at age 13 (barely) in 23:20. It was fun to share my 'hobby'. He tried cross country a couple times, but didn't stick with it. Here we are last year in a 5K we ran together. That's for you, Keeley.

In '05 I married wife #2, Mrs. bangle44. I actually proposed before a race, out on a pier over the ocean. Totally surprised her. Then I took off to run the race. She loves the ocean, so she was thrilled and always tells everyone how I proposed and then ran away. We bought a house together only 1/2 mile from the beach, so now I can do most of my running along the coast. Life is good.

In '08 and '09 I gradually got more serious with the running. Did more half marathons, and did my first triathlons. And in May '09 I started blogging on the loop, the greatest motivational tool for runners since finisher medals.

In going through the archives I found the first documented capture of the bangle pump, from 2002. Spot the pump.

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And here is a bigger version of my original loop avatar, from my first tri in 2008. Senior Runner named this the bangle pump, and it kind of took off from there.

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When the LA marathon came out with a new course, I knew it was time to vanquish my bete noire, get the monkey off my back, and conquer my hometown marathon. Training was going well. I put in the mileage, I did more speed work, had some good races. The loop helped motivate me to new heights. I had a stretch goal of a BQ at 3:30, or 8 minute pace, but really I just wanted to finish LA without bonking for once.

The rest is from my original Loop RR, titled Revenge is Kind of Sweet
Alternate titles:
Maybe Three Days a Week isn't Enough After All
OMFG, It Hurts!
LA, You are my Bee-yotch!
A Bonk and A Victory

Getting to the start was crazy. I left home at 5:00 AM and got within 2 miles of the stadium at 5:30 and then stopped dead on the freeway. An hour later we made it into the parking lot, just before I was ready to ditch the car or pee my pants. I did a quick pee, luckily the parking lot is surrounded by trees, and headed for the corral. I managed to move up pretty far, so I was only about 20 feet behind the sub 4 corral, so I got 90% of the people behind me. Then I sat and waited. The start was delayed 20 minutes due to the traffic problems.
At the start they played "I Love LA" and I got choked up again. I managed to get moving pretty quick and did the first mile in 8:33. After looping the Stadium we passed the start and the back of the pack had still not moved at all. It was over 20 minutes before everyone got started. Miles 2 and 3 were downhill so I opened it up and clocked a 7:38 and 7:35. Banking some minutes! Ha!

Miles 4 and 5 had some steep uphills, and I had to make another potty break that cost me a minute. But basically I was feeling pretty good - not great. 8:11, 9:17 (with stop)

The next 7 miles I was cruising through Hollywood, enjoying the atmosphere, running just under 8 minute pace, and thinking it was too fast. But I was trying to relax, and the pace would not go up! So I decided to stay with it and see how it went. Maybe a BQ was possible if I could keep this up. But I was starting to feel a little tired, and kind of figured I would be hurting later. 7:59, 7:49, 8:09, 7:53, 7:59, 7:57, 7:54

Celebrity sighting! Gordon Ramsay was running and I heard someone say his name, and I looked over and there he was, 4 feet away! I passed him about mile 12. The guy next to me had to say" My wife loves your show" or some such nonsense and he was gracious and said "Thanks very much". He is a serious runner and has done the 56 mile Comrades race! Turns out he dropped out about 3 miles later.

There were photographers all over, so by the end of the day I was ready to retire the bangle pump forever. It seemed a little forced. I should just save it for the finish.
The people cheering were awesome. With my name on my bib, I heard lots of Go Brad cheers. Major kudos to the fans who spend hours boosting the spirits of thousands of strangers!

Mile 13 I was starting to tire, and my "relaxed" effort was finally showing up on my watch with a 8:21, but mile 14 was back to 8:02 and mile 15 was downhill so I did 7:57. But I was getting seriously tired now. I was feeling blisters forming on both feet and getting pre-cramp feelings in my calves. Mile 16 was 8:22.
I then started focusing on short term goals. Walking started to sound really good, but I kept putting it off. I was running with my heart and my guts. My wife and kid were waiting at mile 18 so I decided I would try to stay strong through then. Mile 17 was 8:37 and mile 18 was 8:45. Slowing but still running.

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I still felt OK, so I focused on getting to 19 without stopping. Made it in 8:41. Now I was starting to think what it would take to finish under 4 hours. Sounded possible if I didn't completely fall apart. Before mile 20 I finally gave in and walked a little. That started a pattern where I would allow myself a walk break each mile, but would then try to make the next mile marker at least before stopping again.

Last 7 miles: 10:49, 10:55, 9:49, 10:39, 10:32, 10:36, 10:02 and a 9:11 pace for the last chunk (0.40 for me)
That last 7 were just pure exhaustion. My strategy worked and I was able to limit the walks to about a minute or so. Sure I slowed a lot, but I didn't totally fall apart like the previous races. At 24.5 my calf cramped up, but I stretched it on a curb and was able to get it to function again. The last mile we could see the finish and I vowed not to walk for the last 1.2, but I was grimacing and suffering. Oh my God it hurt. Finally the finish arrived and I could stop moving. 3:52:38. I was glad to break 4 and conquer LA. Revenge was mine! Not an optimal race, but I never quit and I finished 30 minutes better than last time, so I'm calling it a victory.

I could go on and on about the pain, but you get the idea. Eventually it subsided, but I was walking funny for a few days. Here I am at the finish.

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Good night!

Next: Episode 7: ?????? (L.A. 2011)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Bangle Chronicles - Episode 5: Attack of the Bonk Clone (2003)

Episode 4 ended with a sucessful 4th marathon in October 2001. As usual I took some downtime afterward, and was back to my low mileage routine. Then in April 2002 I lost my job during the dot-com meltdown. Still divorced and half-time parenting, now I had even more time on my hands. The solution? Sign up for another marathon!
One of my high school buddies that ran Twin Cities with me lives in New York, so he convinced me to sign up for the New York Marathon. I entered the lottery, which at the time promised odds of better than 50/50, and started increasing the miles. By June I was up to 12 miles and feeling good. I did a 5K in 20:09 and later a 10K in 39:55 (although it may have been short). Both were best times in 7 years. Things looked good. But then I found out I missed the lottery and would not be going to New York. 

Meanwhile the job hunt was not going well. But as usual, running helped me through a tough time. I ended up unemployed for over 8 months. Longest stretch of my life. But I think I actually became more positive during that time. I focused on the good things - more time with my kid, more time to run, etc. I think I talked myself into being positive so much that it actually changed my permanent attitude. This coming from a natural cynic. I like to think that the running also helped in some chemical way. Endorphin overload.

Anyway, I had started dating again. I was seeing a girl who ran a little and she talked me into signing up for the LA marathon training program, the LA Road Runners. This is a group of hundreds that met every Sunday for a long run, in preparation for the LA marathon. There were pace leaders and groups for about 12 different paces. I started in with the 3:30 pace group and really enjoyed it. I met some great people and got into good shape. So now I was signed up for the LA marathon in March. The girlfriend dropped out of the group after two weeks, quit running, and we broke up about two months later. Coincidence? - I think not.

So training was going well. I was up to 17 miles in December, and then... I got a job. This was a good thing, because obviously I needed a job, but it took a toll on the last two months of training. I was now working all the time, and doing some travelling for work, and missing runs. Call it a 10 week taper. Still, I did one 20 miler and felt like I was in pretty good shape.

Race Day was warm again. The race starts late, at 9:00, which means dealing with mid-day heat before you are done. My parents flew out for the weekend and got to see the start and finish. My son was with his Mom and missed out. I met up with some of my running group and we started together. The start was great, with "I Love LA" playing, and over 20,000 people streaming through the streets. We found our 8 minute pace, and stayed on it, or a little faster through the first 13 miles. I took a pit stop mid-race at a port-a-potty for the first time in my life, but there was no line, and I jumped in and out and sped back up to try and catch my group. By this time it was getting hot, and I was starting to suffer. By 16 miles our group was breaking up, and a short steep hill broke me. After the hill I could not get backup to pace. My legs were telling me I was done. I couldn't believe it, not with ten miles to go!

The pace slowed. I stopped at water stops for extended walk breaks. Nothing helped. By around 20 my quad started to spasm. I would walk it off, but after a while I couldn't run more than a block before my muscles would start to cramp up or start shaking. I assume I was dehydrated and underfueled. But no matter how much I drank, my legs were shot.

A few of my group were also having the same problems. It was a hot day. I found more people to walk with in the same situation. I wanted to run, but my body would fail every time I tried. So it became another long death march, just like 1991. I was frustrated, angry and depressed, with maybe a 90 minute walk ahead of me to get to the finish. Meanwhile the fans were great: "You can do it", "You're almost there", Looking good" as I stroll slowly by, grimacing. I would start to jog and they would cheer, but soon I would have to stop.
When I got about two blocks from the finish I started to run, and both quads cramped at the same time and I went down in the street. A stranger jumped off the curb and ran to me and started vigorously rubbing my thighs and loudly encouraging me in broken English. (I'm crying here just thinking about it) Eventually the cramps subsided and I got moving and he cheered me on. I hobbled through to the finish and picked up my medal. Boy, it felt good to be done. It was tough, but I made it. Time: 4:23:40. (Course record by 6 minutes! Ha!)

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So, LA beat me again. The bonk returned. I don't have any pics from the race. Better off forgetting.
The good news from that month - Two weeks later I met a woman who would later become my wife. But that's for another episode.
Next: Episode 6: Revenge of the Jogger (2010)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Bangle Chronicles - Episode 4: The Phantom Marriage (2001)

After a successful marathon at age 33 in 1995, I slipped back into the occasional runner lifestyle. I would run once or twice a week, or less. I would do a few local 5 and 10Ks every year. Nothing long. I logged almost 1,200 miles on the baby jogger before I had to retire it when the boy was five. I was happy to sell it to a pregnant runner at a garage sale - she was so excited to get one for $20!

Once he was too big to push, but too small to leave at home alone, I had less time to run. The wife worked a lot of late nights, so I was home with the boy most nights. It was great for bonding, but running had to take a backseat for a while.

By the year 2000, my marriage was in trouble. Without getting into too much detail, she moved out in February of 2001 and divorce followed as soon as legally possible after that. Now I was a half-time parent, single dad half the time, and lonely bachelor the other days. Which meant more time to run! By the end of April I had decided to sign up for another Twin Cities Marathon in October, and started ramping up the mileage. I had some friends in Minnesota also running it this time ,who encouraged me. They were turning 40 just before the race, so it was a mid-life crisis kind of thing. I was only 39 but what the heck.

The running was my therapy as I worked through the divorce. As you all know, a good long run is great to get time to think and let your emotions settle and get one thinking positively. I was doing my usual 3 runs a week training plan, allowing me to be Dad 3-4 times a week. Training went pretty well and I got in two 18 milers and one 20-miler.I took my son with me back to Minnesota and my parents were again my support crew. Also my brother flew in to share in the fun and support me.

Race day was cold! I was with three friends hanging out in the Metrodome as long as we could before braving the 35 degree weather. But once we got going it turned out perfect. I had a long sleeve T-shirt that I ditched after 5 miles. I ran with one of my friends for about 7 miles before he faded back. I was feeling really good and accelerating. The crowds were again fantastic. They really helped me keep the adrenaline going.Someone had given me the idea to put my name on my shirt to get strangers to cheer for me and it worked like a charm! For the whole race I was hearing "Go Brad" from hundreds of people. Hearing attractive female strangers call out my name with excitement in their voice really helps!! Nowadays they often print your name on the bib, but back then I was a trendsetter!

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So this race went pretty much like the last one. I felt good most of the way. Faded a little at the end, but not too bad. It was great to see my 7 year old cheer for me. My brother hopped in at  mile 22 and did the last 4 miles with me, which was a great help. Here is my little guy handing me something.

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I had a few walk breaks, but was doing OK. The finish was again a great feeling, although I don't think I cried this time. But I had a great sense of accomplishment after a tough year. Final time: 3:33:38. Missed Boston by 13 minutes. Again, not really the goal. I was quite happy with the time, and my return to being a marathoner.
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See how they made a "20" out of the shoe prints. Clever.

Next: Episode 5: Attack of the Bonk Clone (2003)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Bangle Chronicles - Episode 3: The Return of the Runner (1995)

After a frustrating 2nd marathon in 1991, I cut the running way back for about a year, but eventually I got the competitive itch again and started running more and doing more races in '92 and '93. Then in November '93 I became a Dad.
Ever since the first Baby Jogger was invented in the mid 80's, I thought, "that is gonna be me someday." I think I bought one before my son was even born. Our local race has a "baby jogger" division with a separate start time, and I was already planning for it. He would be 2.5 months - plenty old for a 10K!
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For the next four years, more than half of my mileage was pushing this little guy around. We did a few races and a lot of training. He either slept or enjoyed the view - it was great bonding time as he got older.
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Insert gratuitous cute kid shot here.
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So 1995 rolls around and I decide to give the marathon another try. In January I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon in October ($30), back home in Minnesota. It would be a chance to visit family and friends and run a beautiful course. Training went well. Pushing an extra 40 pounds helped get me into better shape! I was running my best race times since my PR days: 19:13 5K, 40:10 10K and 1:33 half 4 weeks before the race. Plus I got two 18 milers and a 20 miler in. So I was better prepared.

Race day was cold but clear. Probably about 40 degrees at the start. I had my wife and kid and my parents driving around the course and they got to cheer for me three times during the race. Twin Cities is a fabulous race. The leaves are turning, and the race runs around three lakes and along the Mississippi and through some parkland, finishing up in historic St. Paul on a beautiful street filled with old mansions, and a finish line at the State Capitol. So there was lots of beauty, and the people are amazing! Lots and lots of cheering.
I started conservatively and felt really good. Started passing people and was cruising along loving it. Seeing the family, especially my little 2 year old, was a special, but fleeting moment. I had to keep moving! One time he was standing there waiting for me with a power bar in his little hand, and I didn't see him until too late. But my wife yelled for me and I saw him and turned back to get it. So cute.But chewing a power bar while running, without water, was pretty hard! Thank God Gu was invented later.
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So I was feeling good to about 20. Fatigue was hitting, but it was manageable. I took a few walk breaks in the last 5 miles, but was able to get up and going again after maybe 30 seconds. When I got to 25 I knew I was going to make it, and I got all emotional, sobbing while running. The training and effort it took to get there this time was a lot more meaningful. And I had done it! The last half mile is downhill to the finish with thousands of people screaming, so that was easy. It was the most wonderful feeling - one of the highlights of my life. The kind of thing that makes us keep coming back for this torture.
I met up with my family and tried to share the joy, but it is pretty hard to translate to words. But here are some pics.
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Oh yes, my time was 3:26:28. Still 16 minutes off of Boston, but that wasn't really in my sights at the time. I was happy to break 3:30 and finish strong.

Next: Episode 4 - The Phantom Marriage (2001)

The Bangle Chronicles, Episode 2 - The Marathon Strikes Back (1991)

After my triumphant debut at 18, I would not return to marathons for 11 years. I went off to college at Stanford. My freshman roommate transferred out after 2 days, and my new assigned roommate was a senior who was a stud on the cross country team! He actually had the national high school record for the marathon, something like 2:21. He encouraged me not only to keep running, but to join the track team as a walk-on. So I trained with a bunch of all-americans, mostly behind them of course, but got into the best shape of my life. Set all my lifetime PRs like 57:09 for a 10 miler, 34:03 for a 10K. Sadly all those miles caused a stress fracture, so by sophomore year I had quit and discovered parties. For the next 8 years or so I ran off and on, mostly off. Did races for fun. Graduated, moved to Southern California, discovered more parties, got my MBA in the evenings, got married at 26. Finished graduate school at 27. Less parties, more time available, feeling settled - Time to train a little more.

In 1990 I started getting a little more serious about the running. Signed up for the LA Marathon in March 1991. ($25!)  Ran a 40 minute 10K in October, a 1:33 half in November, and a 1:31 half in February 4 weeks before race day. So I was feeling good. However, a peek at my mileage logs showed that I never ran longer than 13 miles. In fact other than the half marathons, nothing over 10 miles! Cue evil theme music. I was running 3 days a week and getting by on youth and muscle memory.

Race day was sunny and warm. The beginning was awesome - 20,000+ runners is an incredible experience. After the gun, the loud speakers always play "I Love LA" by Randy Newman, and with everyone screaming and excited and all the emotion...That song now makes me choke up every time. Just past the start the pack slowed down again because everyone was waving at Muhammad Ali standing up high with the mayor. Then we were off through downtown LA. The streets surrounded by tall buildings were fun to run through. With no cars and thousands of runners, it was surreal.

So I was enjoying the experience. Lots of fans, a good variety of neighborhoods. Running down Hollywood Blvd was fun. But once I got past 13 miles, my legs were dead. I was fading fast. I don't have splits, but I think I was on pace for a 3:20 or so. But then it all fell apart. By 16 I was on empty and had started to take walk breaks. It was hot, and I had no energy, and still 10 miles to go! The last ten miles were through a seedier part of town, and it was not inspiring me, but I don't think it mattered. My body was done. I walked most of the last 8 miles. I would have quit but I figured the fastest way to get home was to just keep walking to the finish. I was frustrated, p!ssed, just exhausted. Ugh.

The finish was at the LA Coliseum, which was nice. For at least a mile I could see it ahead and that got me going a little. My wife was waiting for me there, and must have wondered what the hell was going on as I was due over an hour ago. I managed to trot through the finish at exactly 4:30:00.

Now, how about those pink shorts and the pale yellow top?! In 1991 they were stylish! My proof is the guy behind me also has pink shorts.(Thank God for him)

So I found the wall. I did not feel any great sense of accomplishment. I didn't want to brag to anyone. Just embarrassed. I vowed not to let that happen again. Of course most non-runners couldn't care less about my time and were still impressed that I ran a marathon. Meh. It sucked.

Next up - Episode 3 - Return of the Runner (1995)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Bangle Chronicles - Episode 1 - A New Hope (1980)

This is a republishing from last year.

This will be the first of 6 episodes - one for each of my lifetime marathons. I'll talk about what was going on in my life, my training, and the race.

So let me take you back to 1980. A few of you were alive then. Jimmy Carter was still President. The entry fee for this marathon was $5. It was the end of the first running boom and races were popping up all over, but most runners were serious. It was run fast or don't bother. This marathon shut down the course after 4 1/2 hours.

I had just graduated from high school. I was a serious track and cross country guy, running 50-60 miles per week. Lots of intervals, no long distance runs over 10 miles. Track had just ended a few weeks prior, and some of my friends and I had decided months earlier to do Grandma's Marathon in Duluth after we graduated. A week before the race I ran a PR 10K in 34:40. I was in good shape! So three of us and a few friends drove up from Minneapolis the day before with some tents.We camped out near the start of the race, which is 26 miles outside of Duluth, basically in the middle of nowhere, next to Lake Superior.

So I settle in for the night in a pup tent with my new girlfriend. Here I am, an 18 year old virgin, on a full taper, lying in a tent with a girl for a first-ever sleepover, trying not to think about my first marathon. Nervous for so many reasons. I'm wearing my only pair of running shorts, which I sleep in. Well, let's just say I had a little accident during the night. So, here I am, in the middle of the night, panic-stricken, walking around in the dark, looking for the nearest faucet, trying not to be seen, rinsing out my shorts. By morning they are still wet. I don't remember what I told people, but I had to get going to the start. At least I got rid of some excess energy!

Anyway, the race is a beautiful course that runs mostly along Lake Superior and finishes in Duluth. It was warm, but not too bad. I don't remember if I had a goal. I went out at my normal easy training pace at the time, 7 minutes per mile (!!!), and just cruised. I don't remember too many details of the race, but I never hit the wall or even slowed down much. I have one split - I hit ten miles in 1:11:10, or 7:07 pace. Otherwise no splits, no Garmin, not sure if there were mile markers, maybe a few. Probably only 3 or 4 water stations. It was a simpler time.

My friends got caught up in traffic, so I didn't see anyone the whole race. It seemed relatively easy I guess - I don't remember any real difficulties. Ah youth! I think my quads were not happy with me but I was able to keep moving. Most of the race is quiet and in the country - no people. The last few miles are in town with lots of noise and that was fun and helped me get to the finish. When I got to the end I was very excited about coming in under 3 hours (2:58:55). A few people I knew from the running community cheered me in. Average pace was 6:50/mile!!! Negative splits!

I remember finding a place to sit on the grass and just sat there and felt very proud. I do remember that the next few days were ones of excruciatingly painful thighs. I could barely walk. Little did I know that I would never run that fast again. At that time, it took a 2:50 to qualify for Boston, so I missed by 8 minutes. A new hope was born. But I think I already knew that I might be a runner for life. We had a good group of runners on our HS team, and a great coach who preached the lifestyle of running. He ran with us. Now 31 years later, many of us are still running.

Here is my official pic. I think I weighed about 120.
blog post photo
And here is my race shirt that I still have after 31 years. No medal. They didn't start handing those out to everybody until a few years later.
blog post photo
Someday I hope to go back and do Grandma's again. I'll be sure to get twin beds.

Next: Episode 2 - The Marathon Strikes Back

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Hay is in the Barn

14 days to race day, and marathon training is all but done. It's all over but the shouting. All that's left is some rest, some easy runs, a little fine-tuning, and a lot of nervous worrying.
You'll be happy to know that cranky bangle has left the building. Just had my longest weekend EVER and that is making me feel a lot better about the condition my condition is in.
Saturday turned out to be a summer-like day with high in the low70s and sunny. I planned to run 9 Saturday and 15 Sunday to practice running on tired legs. Ths was after 9 miles of speedwork Thursday. The 24 mile weekend is more than I have ever done in 2 days (not counting marathon days).
Got a late start due to family duties and left about 11 AM. Plan was to just run, see how I feel, not work too hard. I was feeling prety good though and it turned out to be a fast run, touching on marathon pace (8:10) for the last 6 miles of the run.
Splits: 8:40, 8:30, 8:29, 8:15, 8:07, 8:24, 8:07, 8:05, 8:22
I ran in my new shoes, and had a little discomfort early, but it faded, and I finished feeling much better about them. My calves were more sore than usual, as I guess I am landing differently, but I am getting used to it. So I decided to wear them again on Sunday.
Sunday's plan initially was to go slow, slow, slow. Over 9 minute pace and just get in the miles. If I felt decent at the end, I would try the last 3 at marathon pace. Weather was cooler and nice, a little windy. Well, right from the beginning I thought, dang, I feel pretty good, considering. My first two miles are always my slowest, and it was hard to stay over 9 minute pace! Legs had some life in them! So I decided to just go with it and run relaxed. The pace picked up. Cruising along - felt pretty good. Got to the beach and realized I would be fighting the wind for the last 6.5 miles. Hmm. I hit the turnaround and a strange thing happened. My pace got faster! I was comfortably moving along under marathon pace. Into the wind. On tired legs. Oh yes.
Check it out: 8:59, 8:58, 8:44, 8:27, 8:32, 8:34, 8:20, 8:22, turnaround,
8:03, 8:14, 8:20, 8:07, 8:03, 7:55, 8:58
I rested in the last mile, but not counting that one, the last 3 were at 8:02, and the last 6 were at 8:07!!! Finished it off with a sub 8 just because I could. But by then, I must admit I was pretty tired, and jogged it in. Still, not dead like the end of a 20. Finished with a smile.
So I am declaring myself fit for trial. My calves are sore and I have a sore spot under my ankle, but overall, my legs are adapting to the new shoes OK so I will stick with them.
Here is a look at my mileage chart.
The line represents my 8-week moving average of miles per week. You can see that I am improving year to year and this year's line is above anything I have done lately (or since 1981)! The big dip last year was when I got hurt and missed 7 weeks. Lots of hay in the barn!
Also, since I'm sharing, check out this weight graph. I weigh myself once a week, after my Sunday run. Today was a new low of 151! Have not seen 150 since the early 90's I'm guessing.
Notice the spike that correlates with the no running dip!
OK, now that my nerdiness is confirmed, you may congratulate me. I gotta dance.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Burning out at the end of Monster Month

Marathon day is 16 days away (LA Marathon) so I will be wrapping up Monster Month this weekend. I have averaged close to 40 miles a week for the last 4 weeks (highest in 30 years) and it is taking its toll on my body and my psyche. I'm getting tired of the aches and pains, and I'm not getting the recovery time I'm used to. Hence I'm a little grumpy, a little depressed, kind of negative about this whole thing. In other words, I am ready for a taper!

Anyway, I knocked off some speedwork last night. 3 x 2 miles at 7:45 average. Total of 9 miles. I had done the same workout a few weeks back averaging 7:30, but this time I didn't have the motivation to push the speed that much. So I pushed it, but not as hard as I could have. The effort was lower. I just wanted to get it over with. Plus I am breaking in new shoes and they are causing new and different pains. So I'm grumpy about perhaps buying the wrong shoes, and I'm trying to decide if I should race in my old ones with over 400 miles on them, or keep working on the new ones and hope I get used to them in a few weeks.

So I'm planning on one more blitz of endurance training this weekend, with 10 miles Saturday and 16 on Sunday. Then nothing but easy shorter runs and rest.

Next week, as I taper, I think I will re-publish the Bangle Chronicles. Veterans will recall that I posted these a year ago as I built up to last year's marathon. It reviews my six previous marathons. It kind of helps motivate me. Plus I'm a narcissist and I like the attention.