What a weekend I just had! The Long Beach Half Marathon was just part of a whirlwind weekend in Orange County. I am so thankful for Mike and his great attitude as we made the rounds as we saw practically everyone I’ve ever known in my life this weekend. Saturday we attended a good friend from high school’s brother’s funeral and reception which was absolutely heartbreaking. Immediately after, we drove over to the Long Beach Convention Center to pick up our bibs at the expo. Afterward we drove back to Huntington Beach for dinner with my Mom and then immediately drove to my Dad’s house for an hour of chit-chat before bed. After the race we met up with my Aunt, Uncle and three cousins for breakfast and then headed to my childhood best friend’s house to meet her 5 day old baby boy. What a weekend!
Race morning was quite different for Mike and I since this was the first race that we didn’t have friends racing with us (my friend Amy was racing the full marathon and we saw her at the expo but didn’t meet up in the morning). We got up at 3:45 AM because we wanted to be on the road for the 40 minute drive to Long Beach by 4:15 a.m. After stopping for coffee and ridiculously over-priced gas (ummm $4.95 a gallon!? WTH?!), we arrived in Long Beach by 5 a.m. as planned and encountered almost no traffic. I had been warned that traffic getting into downtown Long Beach on race morning was pretty intense, so I made sure we got there extra early. We made our way to our pre-paid parking spot in a local parking garage and sat and ate our peanut butter banana sandwiches and drank our coffee in the warm car. The rest of the morning went quickly and before we knew it, we were lining up in our corral, ready to start.
The race began and we were off! I was nervous waiting for the start and the adrenaline was pumping. Going into this race, I didn’t blog about it, but my #1 goal was to PR (former PR was AFC in August 2011 1:52:24) , 2nd goal was to break 1:50 and 3rd goal was to run the race at my Boston Qualifying Pace – 8:15 min/miles. After a pretty disappointing race in a very hot and humid AFC 2012, 8 weeks post-Ironman, I’ve been training pretty hard. Although weekend plans (i.e. weddings) have forced me to rearrange my schedule quite a bit, I’ve gotten in some solid mileage, including a 40 mile week. I did hill-repeats on Torrey Pines 3 times and had a really quality 7.5 mile interval workout 10 days before the race. However, I did have one of the worst long runs ever and in general haven’t always felt super strong. It was hard for me to mentally and phonically recover from Ironman without taking significant time off which ultimately resulted in a loss of fitness. I had the idea that coming out of Ironman I’d be the strongest and fittest I’ve ever been, and that definitely was not the case. However, these last four weeks or so I could tell that I was getting my mojo back and a PR/sub 1:50 was seeming very possible, especially with a good taper (which I did). The weather was somewhat cooperating with a high of 75 expected for the day – not ideal racing weather but not bad either.
As usual, the first mile I kind of just kept up with those around me, trying not to weave too much through the thick crowd and waste energy. My first mile ticked off at 8:27 and I knew it was time to pick up the pace. The first mile felt VERY easy, so I knew I could go a bit faster. The first few miles had a few slight hills as we ran up and over a couple of bridges. The sun was rising and the ocean looked absolutely beautiful. I tried to soak it all in as I ran. The next two miles were closer to what I wanted – both 8:18. At this point, I kind of mentally checked out of the idea of a 1:47:30 race (8:15 average that I need to qualify for Boston), but figured it was possible for me to negative split and possibly get it done. My focus shifted to at least guaranteeing a sub 1:50.
I had skipped the first aid station but I did drink water at the 2nd. During mile 4, I got my Gu out, knowing an aid station was coming at mile 4.5.I gulped down the Gu quickly and slowed a bit to take plenty of water and kept going. Just before the aid station, I remember running past a “Your Speed” digital sign that warns cars of their speed. It was pretty entertaining when I saw that the speed sign was picking up the runner’s speed! It showed that we were running 7 mph.
Now we were running through downtown and soon we ended up on the boardwalk. The first portion of the boardwalk wound along the coast, next to stores and restaurants. There was a lot of crowd support here, which was nice since there hadn’t been a lot in the beginning. I remember running by and feeling strong and good. My pace on my Garmin kept showing me that I was in the high 7s, low 8s and I knew I’d achieve my goal. Mile 4 was a 8:21 pace, slightly slower most likely due to the aid station. As we wound through Shoreline Park, mile 5 showed 8:32. I was feeling great and really enjoying myself. Time to pick it up!
Around mile 6 is when we passed through the start area. Spectators lined the streets cheering us on. We were just about halfway and now it was time to run down the sand-lined boardwalk and then loop up into the street that parallels the ocean and run back. When I looked down at my watch at mile 6.55, the halfway point, I was at exactly 55 minutes, meaning that I would have to negative split in order to achieve sub-1:50 glory. At this point, I was feeling really good and told myself that this race would be like the La Jolla Half where I felt good the whole time and then picked it up at the end to negative split.
So I revved it up a notch and the mile 6 split came out to 8:22. Not bad but not great. I was hoping for something sub 8:15. I got in the zone and focused on my form – quick leg turnover, relaxed face and upper body. I reminded myself to take a look around and enjoy the sights, but also kept focus on my pace. Mile 7 – 8:24. Grr! Mile 8 I really picked it up. My watch was telling me I was in the high 7s, low 8s. However, there was also this random aid station during mile 8 that required me to veer quite a bit off the path. I had planned to take half a Gu at this station too but it came out of no where and I wad distracted by a guy who had started to make conversation about Ironman because of my hat.
Not only did I miss my chance to Gu (I hate taking Gu without water), suddenly my watch beeped – Mile 8 – 8:28. I was utterly confused. I actually spoke out loud “What the F*ck?!” because I had been seeing high 7s and low 8s on my watch and now it was telling me I ran a 8:28. Another thing that added to my disappointment was the fact that my Garmin had been tracking fairly evenly with the mile markers until this point. When my watch clicked off 8 miles, I was still quite a ways from the 8 mile official sign. I think this was the point where I realized that sub 1:50 was probably not happening.
My body still felt pretty good going into Mile 9, despite my disappointment in my most recent mile. As we climbed a small hill to get off the boardwalk and into a neighborhood around this point, I saw my aunt, uncle, and three cousins, who had come out to support me! I had told my cousin who goes to Cal State Long Beach about the race, but I didn’t actually think she would come. It was a great surprise to not only see her but also four other family members cheering me on! I got a pretty big boost of energy seeing them and picked up the pace again. Right after I saw them, I hit an aid station and took my 2nd Gu down quickly. Mile 9 was 8:22 and as I rounded the final turn and headed back toward the finish line, mile 10 ticked off at 8:23.
I had heard/read that there was an incline around mile 11 and I was expecting it. However, I wasn’t expecting how hard it would seem! My heart rate skyrocketed and suddenly running at my planned sub 8 minute mile seemed impossible. I allowed myself to back off during the incline and coasted down a decline. The mile was 8:28. Sub 1:50 dreams destroyed. At this point, I knew that my only hope was to hold on to a PR. My body suddenly didn’t want to run – my heart rate continued to be extremely high (high 180s). As I started into Mile 12, I wanted to give up. I put the 2nd ear bud into my ear and cranked up the music. Don’t give up.
Ironically, Eminem’s “Til I Collapse” flooded my ears.
“Cause sometimes you just feel tired,
Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.”
I know this is only a race, not life and death, but the timing of this song coming on was pretty incredible. This is the song that reminds me of the determination and endurance it takes to complete an Ironman because of this YouTube video. This song reminds me that suffering is sometimes required to achieve goals.
Eminem- you saved my life! Erm…race.
Mile 12 was a disappointing 8:51 pace but I tried to channel my inner-Eminem and not quit. Luckily, the last mile or so has a slight decline which was absolutely fabulous. I felt like absolute crap by the hill pulled me forward. I got out my last Gu out and started slowly eating it despite having just passed an aid station so there would be no water to wash it down. I figured since I just drank water, I’d be ok eating the Gu. I didn’t know what else to do – I literally felt like I had hit the wall during a marathon. I just kept telling myself that I had less than 10 minutes to go. I could do anything for that long.
My heart rate was off the charts – 190 (I have a very high heart rate in general but this is extreme even for me). I was probably using 100% glycogen to fuel my muscles which is why the Gu was slightly helping but not quite fast enough. Mile 13 – 8:27. I was holding on. I knew I was going to PR if I kept it up. KEEP GOING!!!!
The last .1 miles was the worst, mostly because it was actually .3. After my Garmin hit 13 miles, I wasn’t even close to the 13 mile marker. Luckily the very last portion of the race is an even steeper hill and I was able to coast down it at an average 7:20 pace to the finish.
Final time: 1:51:53. A 31 second PR.
After I crossed the finish line, I was disappointed. I know – boo hoo I PRed and I’m sad about it. I’m disappointed because for some reason I thought after doing an Ironman that I would magically be a superior runner than I was pre-Ironman. That is certainly not the case. I’m pretty positive that had I run a half marathon before my 3:49 performance at Surf City that I would have blew 1:50 out of the water. So what this means is not only do I need to take 14 minutes off of my marathon PR to get to a BQ, but I’m also not even at my marathon PR fitness. The road to Boston seemed even longer in that moment.
I’m going to write another post about the lessons I learned during this race as well as some ideas as to why I crashed and burned at the end, but for now, I’ll focus on the good news – this race was a big PR in terms of age group, sex and overall rankings.
The results page has this pretty cool image:
The above graphic is based on net times, not gun times, so my actual stats were: 1:51:53 (8:33 pace); 44 out of 998 in age group (top 5%!); 227/6,536 women (top 3.4%), 936/11,200 overall (top 8.4%). My pace according to my Garmin was 8:25.
Despite not meeting my goal of sub-1:50, I was absolutely thrilled when I saw my age group and sex rankings! AFC was my first half marathon that I placed in the top 10% of my age group and this time I placed in the top 10% overall and in the top 3.4% of women! It was obvious that this course was a bit more difficult than originally thought and I really do think that it was a bit too long (I talked to several others who agreed). The best part of the stats above is the “for the record – you were ahead of 85% of men runners.” CHICKED!
After the race Mike and I met up with my family and my uncle (who was wearing his Long Beach marathon t-shirt from 1988) announced that next year for his 50th birthday he is going to run the Long Beach Marathon again. It’ll be exactly 25 years since his first and only marathon. My cousin also wants to run and Mike and I just might have to join them!
Do you have a motivational song that helps you get through tough moments in a race or during a hard workout?