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!)
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)