Successful Marathon Number Two

Sheila Poses with her Finishers Medal from the Long Beach 2007 Marathon

Last week, Sunday October 14, 2007 I ran the Long Beach 2007 Marathon. Finish time 4:15:12. A Personal Record, even if it wasn’t my dream-goal of finishing in 4 hours. I do consider it a success, especially because I have had no injuries since July and I finished the marathon and am recovering well with no injuries during or after the race.

I guess one of the problems that I have, is trying to make myself wake up early enough. Race start time was 7:30 and somehow I believed it would be good enough to arrive at 6 am, an hour and a half before the start. I should’ve allowed 2 hours minimum, though. Well, hindsight and all that…

I really just didn’t want to get up before 4:30 am. We woke Jennifer up at 4:45 and were out the door at about 5:20. But as we approached the race area, the traffic was so backed up. We must’ve spent over 45 minutes getting from the freeway off-ramp to our parking place near the Convention Center, which would normally take only 10 minutes. Then a half hour in the potty line. I barely finished with 15 minutes before the race to go and get into the starting area.

Sheila runs past at Mile 6

Obviously this didn’t leave much time at all for warm-up or stretching. I did try to jog a bit to the starting area and stretch some in the starting coral. But it really was not sufficient for the long run ahead.

My hubby and daughter Jenny came to lend support and both my parents, too. What a boost for me, knowing they would be along the course to cheer me on. I confess that at mile 20 when I felt like walking, knowing they would be there waiting for me at mile 21 kept me running to stay on the expected pace. (If only I could have kept running the last miles after I passed them at mile 21!).

The Long Beach course is beautiful, at least the parts along the ocean. The Long Beach Press Telegram sent photographers to cover the race, and there is a very nice video along with some beautiful still shots on this page. I would very much enjoy running this particular race course again.

Well, in any case, I manuevered to a position near the middle of Coral A for the start. I was fairly close to the front. When the race started, everyone was near me was running right about my pace. I didn’t have anyone in my way that was walking or going too slow to be near the front of starting pack. I was trying to hold myself back to a 9-minute-per-mile pace for the duration of the race, going for about a 4-hour finish. It is important not to go out too fast, and I was well-rested and excited, so very tough to hold back. And I probably ended up running my first 10K (6.2 miles) about 12 seconds per mile too fast. All I know is that I was soo tired for the last 5 miles, that I suppose I may have just used up too much energy early in the race.

Sheila and Jenny running together at Mile 14Somewhere around mile 7 or so I noticed cramps in my right glutes. Ugg. We were running along the bike path on the beach, and I was just telling myself to relax, relax, relax. But that muscle was just cramping up anyhow. At Mile 10 I stopped to use the porta-potty and stretched a bit, and then somehow I did relax and started in again with the running. I felt really good. In fact, I felt great up until at least Mile 14. I did walk through the Mile 14 water stop, but picked right up again with the running. At Miles 13 and 14 Jennifer came out onto the course and ran for a short bit with me. My Mom also jogged a bit with me at Mile 14, calling out advice and support.

Somewhere around Miles 16-18 it started to require some effort, and there were some brief walking breaks and parts where I stopped to stretch. Still, I was on pace and doing OK. By Mile 20 though it was getting quite hard. But as I mentioned before, I knew my family would be waiting for me at Mile 21, and knowing they expected me on a 9-minute-pace somehow kept me going. But after Mile 21 I really broke down. I wasn’t hurting. No injuries or pain. But just tired. And not much will-power. Didn’t want to go. Just wanted to walk. Even though I’d read quite a bit the previous week about the psychological aspects of the last 6 miles of a marathon, even though I knew I would be tired and want to quit, even though I knew it was all just in my mind and I had vowed to just tell myself to keep going and not quit, none of that seemed to matter at that particular point in time.

Sheila runs across the finish line

And so there was walking. I still thought in a way that if I just took maybe a short walk break I would feel more able after a short rest to pick up and run again and that I might still make my 4-hour goal. But after a while I realized there was no way I could make the 4-hour goal (it is REALLY hard to do mental math when you’re this tired and worn out!). And once I realized I couldn’t make that goal, another huge piece of my motivation evaporated. Plus the cramps in my right glutes had come back somewhere around miles 17-20, so I was hurting a bit.

And so I must’ve walked at least half of Miles 22-24. Or more. But as I got to Mile 25 I realized that I wasn’t even going to make a time of 4:15 if I didn’t start to hustle. I had set myself three goals: Dream goal of 4 hours. Acceptable goal of 4:15. I can do it in my sleep goal of 4:30. Well, knowing I might not even make 4:15 did all of a sudden motivate me towards the end of the race. So there does seem to be some purpose to setting goals. Once I got to about a half-mile out from the finish line I was able to focus and will myself to keep running and no more walking, and I ran that last 200 yards in at a pretty good clip.

After the finish I did need to keep walking for a while. I was a bit stiff. Some gentle stretching, and then walking to our car and then the long drive home. An ice bath followed immediately upon arrival home. I really think the ice baths help a lot with the recovery. The next day I took a 30-minute walk/jog at an average pace of about a 13-minute mile, so slow and gentle. And Tuesday (two days after the race) I swam laps for 20 minutes at the local pool. Wednesay I did a 4-mile run and got a massage.

So overall my recovery has been going very well. But the 4-mile run on Wednesday may have been stupid. I think my right glutes need some extra rest and recovery time. My hip on the right side isn’t feeling 100%, although it doesn’t feel “injured” either. Just needs some extra rest. So after Wednesday I told myself no more running until this coming Monday (4 days off from running). So I rode my bike for an hour yesterday. That was tough, but good. Today was complete rest. Tomorrow I will go rowing and swimming and then try a gentle run again on Monday. We’ll see how it goes…

Book Run Less Run Faster
So where to now? Well, Chris (my hubby) and I are both training for the Los Angeles Marathon on March 2, 2008. I still have another 2 or 3 weeks of recovery time before I will start my training in earnest. I’m going to try a new program from this book: Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary FIRST Training Program (Runners World) by Bill Pierce (Author), Scott Murr (Author), Ray Moss. I’m really excited about this book, which has a program of 3 days of hard running at fast paces, with 2 or 3 days of cross-training mixed in. I’m looking for it to reduce my chances of injury, speed me up, and improve my overall endurance. A friend of mind in the Pacers Running Club has been using this book to prepare for the Santa Clarita marathon on November 4, 2007 and she says it has been working well for her. So we’ll see… I’m excited to test it out myself.

PostScript: Photo Gallery by my hubby of marathon shots, for those who would like to see more pictures: Long Beach Marathon Photos

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