Race Report: The 2019 LA Marathon
Here is my full race report from the 2019 LA Marathon! If you follow me on Instagram you know the results already, but this dives deeper into my mile by mile experience. Enjoy!
The alarm clock buzzed and woke me up at 4:30am. I made some black coffee, got dressed half asleep and made it to the bus pickup at the Santa Monica Courthouse, a 5 minute walk from the Air Bnb. Getting on the bus was fast and easy, very well organized.
25 minutes later we got off the bus and walked right into Dodger Stadium which was insanely beautiful and filled with lots of nervous and excited energy. A band was playing crowd pleasers and there were plenty of port-a-pottys. I never had to wait more than a few people to go to the bathroom.
We lined up at our corrals, I was towards the front in Corral B, we sang the national anthem, and the starting gun went off at 6:55, shuffling all runners forward into our future of pain.
Mile 1 - The beginning was all downhill, and running out of dodger stadium even with the corral start there were so many people it was impossible to gain any speed. Next time I would have pushed further to the front of my corral. I dodged through people to get towards the front and at a good pace of 8:30.
Mile 2-4 - Things were all downhill, it was hard to find the right pace moving between 7:10-7:55. These miles went by in a blur.
Mile 4-10- There were lots of ups and downs so my pace was everywhere which got in my head a bit, but I was able to relax and take in the sights. Running through a carless downtown was really cool, passing over the freeway and running into Hollywood was really something. One of the spectator tables was handing out enchiladas. A nice lady screamed to me ‘You Go Girl!’ and it gave me life.
Mile 11-13- I started getting really in my head about my pace. Because the previous miles were all rolling hills I had no confidence maintaining a steady 7:30. I allowed my nerves to kick me into a faster pace and was between 7:10-7:20, which is too fast for these legs. That would bite me in the butt later.
Mile 13 - The side cramp began. It was in my upper rib cage and hurt with every breath. I can’t tell if I drank too much water or nuun, or not enough, or what happened. I think around here I passed the people handing out Pizza slices and thought to myself ‘maybe another time…?’. My best friends texted me good luck and I remember thinking ‘Oh crap this hurts and I’m only halfway’.
Mile 14-18- The side cramp was my enemy. It persisted through mile 18 after I stopped drinking anything or taking in any nutrition and just ran. It eventually went away around mile 15 so I took one baby gulp of water and it came right back. I stopped to walk a few times with my hands over my head, gasping for air. It felt like maybe a heart attack. Or a marathon. Same thing.
Around mile 16 I was feeling so terrible I decided to let go of my time goal and just focus on finishing. My pace slowed. My quads were on fire. My body was not performing optimally and there was nothing I could do but get through this. I put my music on loud and focused on staying mentally in the mile I was in.
Mile 19-21- I started getting the chills pretty hardcore. The side cramp was now gone but my quads were screaming at me. Each step took all of my effort. I was questioning if I was even going to be able to finish. I started texting my friends asking for prayers. I let doubt creep in to my mind. I stopped and walked quite a few times to let my heart rate fall a bit. Looking at my stats after the race, my heart rate was above 180 at this point. For reference, during training my heart rate would rarely climb above 165 on a hard long day. I wondered where the medic tent was. I wondered if I was at the point where I needed help. I saw Amy and Michelle cheering me on and that gave me a quick boost to keep going forward, especially with young Amy watching I knew I couldn’t quit.
Mile 21-23 - This hill was my enemy. I stopped and walked for a good portion of this hill. My heart was not having it. My legs were yelling at me. I grabbed a water cup from and aid station and dunked it on my hair under my hat and on my shoulders. It was getting really hot. The chills were all over. My skin looked like a plucked chicken.
I tried switching up my form to utilize fresher muscles. I increased my cadence. It seemed to work and my legs got moving at a slow and steady pace.
Mile 23 - I realized I was close enough to the finish line that this was happening. The hill was behind me and I had the slow descent to the end. I was going to finish. There was no more doubt. I texted my sister and told her these next 3 miles were for her. I cried to myself knowing that I was going to make it. Marathons take you to weird mental places. I saw the 3:30 pace group pass me and let go of any hopes for PR. I decided I was just going to give it my all and finish with my best possible effort.
Mile 24-26 - I dug deep. I was in a lot of pain but I tried to think about what felt good, like my coach told me to. But nothing felt good. Everything hurt. So I focused on things happening outside myself. When I would pass someone who started walking I would encourage them with an exasperated plea, ‘WE ARE ALMOST THERE KEEP GOING’. I could see the pain in their face. I was them. They were me. And we were in this together. I passed quite a few people slowing down, one girl fully bent over like she was going to chuck. I threw my fist in the air and yelled ‘ALMOST THERE LET’S GO’. I’m not sure if she heard me. But we kept going. We persevered, equally alone in our our pain and equally bonded by determination to keep moving forward.
I looked at my watch and realized if I held a strong pace I might be able to make it in around 3:30. I turned my pace onto high gear, shutting off all my internal cues and staying focused on one foot in front of the other. I was in what can best be described as ‘Beastmode’.
Mile 26-26.4 - I turned the corner onto Ocean Boulevard and could vaguely see the finish line archway. This was it. My legs wanted to stop. My brain kind of wanted to stop too. So I started talking out loud to myself. ‘COME ON!’ I yelled over and over. There were people cheering on both sides of the road. I didn’t care. I needed to stay in the zone. I yelled at myself more. I felt all the pains of the race and exhaustion and it was like I was covered in a blanket of it. Time disappeared and I was running that last .4 miles for what felt like centuries.
FINISH - I crossed the finish line full speed ahead, snagging a 3:29:56 official time, which qualified me for the Boston Marathon by 4 seconds and was a Personal Record. I didn’t know that at the time and didn’t care. I was more focused on staying alive. I could barely walk. There was a big medic team at the finish line who looked at me and almost grabbed my arm for assistance but I tried to play it cool and grab a water bottle and chugged it down. I hobbled over to the people handing out medals and meekly put it around my neck. The girl handing it to me said congratulations and I think I responded with a grunt. A guy took my picture and I remember him looking slightly terrified at my ghostly appearance. Understandably, as I was half dead in that photo.
I sat down on a curb and waited for Jeremiah to meet me. He hoisted me up to my feet and my quads failed me a few times standing up. I cried. It was a combination of happy crying that it was over and sad crying that it hurt so much. I said to him, ‘That sucked. I just got my butt kicked’. He responded, ‘You finished though’. That felt good. He carried me Damsel in Distress style the 6 blocks to the Air Bnb.
Reflecting on this race, I have some MAJOR takeaways for my future marathons.
Know your course. I didn’t do enough research on the difficulty of this course and had I done so, I probably would have pulled back a lot more in the beginning and possibly slowed down my goal pace slightly.
Nutrition and Hydration - I messed up on my nutrition and hydration big time as seen in my massive quad cramping and side cramp early-ish in the race. I’m not sure what I did wrong exactly, but I will find out with research over the next few weeks. I may have been dehydrated from the long car ride the day before. Or I may have been drinking too much water for my stomach to handle early in the race. All things to toy with during my next training cycle.
It’s almost all a mental game. I could have easily decided I was too weak to keep going at mile 19. The fact that I finished was thanks to the grit and determination I had built over this training cycle. I was just too invested to give up.
The power of prayer. At mile 23 I found a second wind to turn up the dial on my pace and finish with a 34 second PR and qualified for Boston by 4 seconds. That right there is a miracle. I thank my small group from church for their prayers because I’m pretty sure this is where the prayers worked.
SO all in all, that was an insanely difficult race! I don’t know Gods agenda but I think he was looking to humble me and ignite my passion for running through this training cycle. I didn’t get my goal time of 3:15. But guess what? I will. On a different course, with a little more weekly mileage, little more strength training, and a focus on form and nutrition, I plan on performing better and faster next time. But I’m thankful for this marathon because it humbled me and brought me back down to reality that no matter how hard you train or how bad you want it, marathons will chew you up and spit you out. It’s a mental game and I need to be ready to go to battle.
I love the sport more today than I ever have and I’m looking forward to the next marathon. Crazy? Yes. Sore? Yes. Determined? You bet.