|Mr. Burns: Race Director|
As I waited in my corral, about ten feet back from the 4:30 pacer with his pink and white balloons, I felt oddly calm. The ever-present race day butterflies were absent, Daft Punk was playing on the iPod and, for the first time since I started running marathons, I felt ready. Patiently waiting for Wave 2 to start running and Wave 3 to move forward, I happened to catch a snippet of what the Race Directors were yammering on about; most of it was the usual stuff- who is running their first marathon, Wave 2 is the best looking wave, all the women yell, blah blah blah- but then I heard something I had never heard them say before:
"Remember guys, "the wall" is only where you put it."
And with that, I got the butterflies. Long Beach has been, for the last two years, one of my favorite courses; partially because I lived in and love the city, partially because it was my first, but mostly because I trained those streets every day to the point that running a full marathon hardly seemed a daunting task - my feet already knew the lay of the land. But with that comes the startling realization that once you know an area well enough, you know where your problem areas are. In San Francisco I am continually bested by the Fort Mason Hill and the run up Leavenworth leading to my apartment. In Orange County it is always the Santa Ana River Trail when the sun is high, and in Long Beach it is the CSULB campus. Odd, since many LBC Runners love that part of the course, it really is an oasis of themed cheering stations and spirit and I hate it. My feet know I hate it and my brain knows my feet know I hate it. I should fix that.
All in all, the LB Marathon is a great course showing off some of the best parts of the city, but for me, yesterday ranked pretty high on the Fail Scale. Perhaps I was too much in my own head during the lead up to the race. I had a goal I desperately wanted to achieve; I trained for it, I prepared for it, ate for it, rested for it and then lost it.
Starting off slowly and holding my expected pace the miles seemed to melt away. I hardly remember passing the Queen Mary or the lighthouse, I do remember the asinine political sign along the boardwalk, and yet before I knew it the pack and I were down by Belmont Brew Co. and quickly approaching Mile 9. It was about then the day started to heat up in an unfriendly, pea-soup sort of way. Grabbing a cup of Nuun at an aid station, I tossed back the electrolyte infused goodness and held onto my cup to scoop up some ice that onlookers had graciously poured into buckets for the runners. I firmly believe running with that cup of ice is what kept me on pace for at least a 4:35 finish for the next 4 miles. Sadly, ice melts much like I do in the heat.
At mile 15.5 Kind of a Whore, Strawberry, Momma KoaW, Titty Litter and Fondle were waiting with signs, cheers and fresh legs. Flashing KoaW a weary thumbs up, she took one look at me and yelled, "You're lying!" and the next thing I new I had SoCal's cheeriest Harriette, Jane Fondle, bouncing at my side in a neon green tutu and keeping me on pace.
"I lost it 2 miles ago," I told her. She grinned and handed me a water bottle full of Nuun.
"No you didn't," she laughed, "You're still going to finish a marathon today."
As we wound through the course, Fondle chattered on, grabbing extra cups for me to dump over my head and pushed me to stay on at a decent jog, sticking with me up through CSULB, waiting as I had BioFreeze sprayed on my knees and reminding me to pause my Garmin as we approached the LBH3 Beer Check (which is the best part of the LB Marathon) at Mile 20.1. Stepping off course, Fondle passed off pacing duties to LA Harriette, member of Team White People Dancing and frequent Ragnar van mate, Sexcommunicated. I have to say, both of these women are much faster runners than I am, especially in the heat; but they willingly slowed down to keep my head (and legs) above water so I could at least finish safely, for this I am so very grateful.
Around mile 23 I could feel myself getting a little heat stroke-ish, something I learned to recognize during my last Ragnar Napa Valley leg, but at that point the only choice was to keep going. Alternating between a speed walk and a slow jog, we kept on and on (I can't wait for the photos to come out as there will be a series of me looking like a wet dog next to cheerful girls in tutus) until the course turned back onto Ocean Blvd. With just about 1.5mi to go, a PR long gone and a Personal Worst in the making, I told Sexy we weren't stopping until I crossed that finish line. It is amazing what the prospect of being "almost done" with a tough ordeal can do for spirits.
I haven't uploaded the Garmin data yet (this was just yesterday, and I'm still a little bitter about the whole ordeal), but RacePix tells me I made 58 kills in the last two miles, ten of those where in the last .2 as I practically flew down the finishing chute.
In the end, my race on the whole sucked; but this is a good thing. Now I know what a bad marathon feels like. As Sexy said, "What's the use of beating yourself up over something you can't control?" I'm not Mr. Burns, I can't block out the sun and make every race day optimal racing weather. All I can do is train hard, train well, prepare to the best of my abilities and do it. If I fail, there's always another race; and beer. There is always beer.