pic by Cay
I ran the City of Los Angeles Marathon yesterday.
Right up until Saturday I was worried that I wouldn't even run after all these months of training. Muchas gracias to my chiropractor Ira Schneider and his magical kinesio tape. Michael Weinstien's two acupuncture treatments also accelerated the healing of my tendonitis.
Woke up at 5:30am and was out the door an hour later. Cay and I took the Fun Van up Western off the 10 to try and park near the subway stop at Wilshire. Olympic was closed for the bike riders doing the route and so we decided to try our luck downtown. We got a super sweet parking spot at Pershing Square. Walked up Bunker Hill and saw my friend Sue Turcot who has been encouraging me all this time. We had some free time so we went to California Plaza at the top of Angel's Flight where we had coffee by the fountain all by ourselves. I used the bathroom at the Omni and it was off to the starting line at a little before 8:00am.
The crowds were enormous. 25,200 runners and over a million spectators. We made our way to 3rd and Figueroa where there was a fence line that only runners could pass through. I went over to the sidewalk to stretch and saw some middle aged Asian guy pissing on the walls of the Bonaventure Hotel. Found Cay by the fence and said an emotional goodbye.
The starter's gun went off @ 8:17. There was a big cheer. Six helicopters were hovering above the canyons of downtown. It was 59 degrees and sunny. Perfect weather. The excited crowd of marathoners slowly moved forward to the starting line where an electronic chip reader records your start time thanks to a small timing device on my shoe. Randy Newman's "I Love LA" was blasting. Sweatshirts were tossed to the sides of the corral where they hung on fences and in the trees. I crossed the starting line at 8:23am.
The first two miles were exhilarating. All downhill fast on Figueroa to the Coliseum. I was running on the right hand sidewalk behind spectators since the road was so crowded. I don't even remember seeing the first mile marker go by. There were hundreds of people going off into bushes and alleys to pee in those first three or four miles. I saw a woman puking after only 2.5 miles. My ipod shuffle was perfectly tuned with 4 hours and 10 minutes of music. I was getting dozens of high fives from the spectators. Tons of people were out cheering us on with their children, relatives, and friends. Los Angeles was all smiles and its streets were beautiful without cars.
People were shouting my name since I had it written on my bib number (thanks to Noel at 2.5 Men for that tip!). I heard the correct pronunciation most of the time but of course there were the regular bastardizations like Nee-gwell, Nigh ghel, Nee ghel, etc. One young woman yelled "Go, Nige!" and I love that. Someone said "You are all Superstars!" and that was a nice one, too. The encouragement from the crowd and the volunteers was incredible. I got choked up a couple times thinking about how great this city can be. Around mile four or five on MLK Boulevard I saw a young guy on crutches running the race. His legs were mangled but his upper body was a solid brick. It was awesome. There were all kinds of people running. 80 nations. All 50 states. All races and creeds. I saw kids that must have been 10 or 11. Octogenarians. Some dude was running with his dog.
I felt really great during the first 13.1 miles (half marathon) and was running under an 8:30 minute pace which was very fast for me. I was fairly confident I could finish under 4 hours and maybe a personal distance record time if I could beat 3:56. This was in the bag! I just enjoyed the run and the experience of it all. The leftside tendonitis I was so worried about never reared its ugly head.
Did I see a woman in garter mesh on La Brea with a couch that had a sign that said "Free Lap Dances for Runners?" There were Taiko drummers, Christian rock bands, Korean rappers, Oaxcan dancers, jazz bands, big bands, cheerleaders, support groups, medical teams, cops, bikers, and every kind of kook and nimrod you could think of along the way.
I got into trouble right after mile 16 or 17 on San Vicente just before we hung a hard right onto Wilshire near museum row. There were a couple hills I didn't handle very well (Crenshaw, maybe?) and so my quadriceps starting to lock up on me and I had to stop and stretch them out. They never recovered. There was so much lactic acid burning in my thighs that I knew I might be in trouble. By the time I got past Rossmore with 7 miles to go I knew I wouldn't make it under 4 hours. The last 6 miles were supremely painful. I feel like I walked about half of it. I never felt pain like that before. My big mistake was training on the flat coastline and not doing enough hill workouts. The quads weren't ready and I think the month of not running may have had something to do with it.
Running east on Olympic was surreal. I remember seeing the 23 mile marker in front of me and downtown was dead straight ahead. It looked really fuckin' far. The last three miles were a blur. The ipod ran its full course and so I took the earbuds out and let the noise of the crowd fill me. We took a left onto Flower for the last uphill climb to the finish line at 5th and Flower. Wow. What a sight. I kicked it across the line and saw Cay almost immediately on the lawns of the Central Library. I also saw Sue Turcot again and she reminded me to go get my medal.
Cay had been patiently waiting for me to finish at Cafe Pinot. It's a very fine restaurant by the finish line and the Central Library. We know the chef Marc Murray and he told us we'd be welcome there even though the whole block was sealed off since this was where the Honda VIP party was hanging out. Mark came out and got me past security and I was able to sidle up to the bar for a delicious Spaten pilsner. Had one more while enjoying the moment and we left around 2:00pm. Got home and vegged all day and for some reason I didn't sleep well at all last night. I think I was too jazzed up from the experience.
Training and the marathon itself were brutal. But what a wonderful experience. I'm so happy I did it. I feel like I can do anything I want. Thanks to Top Willy Brown who was my first inspiration. I also have to thank the LA Leggers for providing a semi-structure for my lone wolf kind of training.
Before closing I have to quote from Cynthia H. Cho and Sandy Banks' Los Angeles times article (reg required? forgot):
The race route was designed to showcase the city's architectural and cultural glory. It begins in the shadow of downtown high-rises and winds through neighborhoods in Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, the Crenshaw District and Hancock Park, passes along Museum Row and ends at the venerable Central Library.
Along the route, hundreds of volunteers pass out drinks, snacks and encouragement. At the start, they are charged with clearing away piles of banana peels, paper cups, granola bar wrappers and garbage bags donned to ward off the early morning chill. Discarded sweatshirts are collected and swept into giant trash bags, then donated to charities. At the finish line, volunteers pass out medals, escort exhausted runners from the course and even massage aching legs and feet.
For many runners, the race was a chance to enjoy a Los Angeles they never see. "The city is just beautiful," said Joan Frieden, 60, of Pasadena, who finished in 5 hours and 35 minutes. "You really see the different ethnicities of the city because everyone comes out. It shows you what this town is all about."
Here are my results.
Cay has published a Flickr set called marathon anyone? She really came through for me yesterday just by being there and being my support system. The photos are hot hot hot.