i fell for running hard.
we're talking first-love-gives-you-butterflies-can't-stop-thinking-about-it-all-day-long kind of emotions. a few weeks after i officially began my training for the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, i first whispered those three little words.
Me: I really, really like it.
BF: That's cool. You just started training though, so you know, you might end up hating it.
Me: (softly) No. Like, I think... I think I love running. I love it.
so that was settled pretty quickly.
i liked running so much that i signed up for a second marathon before i'd even completed my first—good thing it went well. locking down a spot in the LA Marathon seemed like a no-brainer for a few key reasons:
- the race was in my hometown, so people could actually come see me run, and it wouldn't involve expensive air travel.
- i could train on the course.
- if the whole thing went to sh*t, it would be very easy to run home because my apartment is directly on the race route.
- it was a few weeks before my birthday. DESTINY. [i realize in hindsight this makes no sense, but at the time it seemed very significant]
i'd run the Skechers Performance LA Marathon on february 14th, 2016. game on.
LA Marathon Training
after BQ'ing at Chicago, i took a few weeks of from running. lots of trampoline bouncing, HIIT workouts, and resistance training exercises were on the menu for me during my 1 month recovery period. but i missed the organized aspect of training for something, so i hit the ground sprinting the day after thanksgiving with 12 weeks till the race.
i tried to relax a little more on training this time around because i wanted to improve my times. i figured if i could release a little bit of the anxiety around running a certain pace during training, i would probably unlock a bit more speed in my actual marathon. [spoiler: this crazy plan actually worked]
here's the thing—elevated stress levels can hold an athlete back.
Of course, training itself is supposed to be stressful. Introducing your body to difficult work that it's not used to is what creates change and adaptation. For example, speed workouts that push you to go faster force you to adapt to moving your legs more quickly—it makes you faster, and that's a good thing, but that's still stressful. constantly Elevated cortisol levels but too much stress on us, and can be detrimental when it comes to recovering and actually adapting. So you're doing all the hard work in training, but your body isn't changing (sound familiar?) that's those RUDE cortisol levels getting in your way. So for me, releasing the anxiety around running and beating my time was really important. emotional stress is just as taxing as physical stress on our bodies and hormones.
this mindset changed the experience for me. the first time you train for a race, everything is new. fatigue, soreness, pain, excitement. you're not really sure if it's normal or not. this time, i vowed to take better care of my body. that meant getting lots of recovery time in, following a great meal plan, and going slower on my long runs. i had been so concerned with speed the first time around that i inevitably ran every LSD weekend run almost at race pace. in the end, i think it tired me out. so this time around, i kept my long runs about a minute slower than what i wanted my race pace to be.
my goal was to run 7:30 splits—lofty As fuck, if we're going to be totally honest—so I buckled in and got to it.
this second time around training was a lot easier. sure, hills sucked. and speed training sucked, too. but it was cold outside, and that made every mile that much more enjoyable. the oppressive heat of the summer was just a memory. i stocked up on long-sleeved shirts and tested out my new pair of nike tights on any workout that involved 15+ miles. i was ready-ish.
Taper week + the race expo
just as training was winding down, Los angeles had a sudden heat wave. i came back from an easy 45 minute run in a panic: "why the fuck is it so hot!", I muttered as i charged into my apartment, simultaneously ripping off my fleece and furiously googling on my iphone. i saw it.
Sunday, 2/14 Los Angeles: temps will soar as high as 90 degrees
you're kidding, right?
after running in 87 degree weather in chicago, i wasn't exactly excited for a repeat sunshine performance. sure, it's great for the spectators to get some sunny, beautiful weather. but if you're running? hell no, dude. seven days away from the starting line, i had to change my whole race plan:
- I'd wear shorts (nooooooooooooooooo) instead of compression pants
- i'd carry a waterbottle as long as i could, maybe even the whole time
- i'd chug electrolytes the whole week. better to have too many electrolytes than too few and risk hyponatremia
- i'd run really fast and just pray that the clouds held on until i'd finished
super solid plan, yah? i figured there was nothing i could do to change the weather, and i'd have to roll with the punches. it was part of my "stress less" mindset. onto the expo!
i ended up heading over on the second day, and i was surprised that it wasn't too crowded. it definitely wasn't as cool as chicago's expo—not much in terms of freebies for runners, although there were some cool companies represented—but i did love that race organizers had a polaroid wall where runners could take a picture with their number. i couldn't find a hat or sweatshirt that seemed worth the $$$, so i skipped on the memorabilia and figured i'd count my race day shirt as my special thingy. i was in and out in about 40 minutes.
saturday looked like a lot of lazing around and eating—sushi, rice, MCT oil, and a single beer are my pre-race dinner compatriots—as prep for the big thing. as i laid out my gear the evening before, like all good runners do, i told my bf a boldfaced lie.
bf: you'll do great. it's going to be so fun, just like chicago. you'll love it.
me: you're right! it's gonna be great! even if i don't go as fast!
yeah, i lied to him. i was nervous—my easy-breezy mentality was quickly fading as the adrenaline began to kick in. i really wanted to do well, have fun, and beat my pr. you know, no pressure.
the LA marathon route is actually pretty cool. it starts at dodgers' stadium and ends at the santa monica pier. on this route, you're able to sprint through downtown, silverlake, hollywood, west hollywood, beverly hills, brentwood, and santa monica. you'll pass tons of cool monuments and incredibly iconic places, and it's great for someone who lives in the city to get a real feel of all the unique neighborhoods of la. of course, while you're running you aren't paying much attention to the scenery.
the few major streets in the city get shut down due to the marathon—santa monica, beverly, rodeo, wilshire—making it challenging to get to the start line. we left super early from weho and still didn't get there until about 30 minutes before it started. OF COURSE, BATHROOM LINES WERE cray, SO I DIDN'T GET A CHANCE TO PEE BEFORE AND JUST HOPED THERE'D BE A GOOD STOPPING PLACE ON THE ACTUAL COURSE.
I GOT TO START IN CORAL B, AND IT WAS PRETTY RELAXED AND OPEN—NOTHING LIKE CHICAGO. I HAD PLENTY OF ROOM TO STRETCH AND WARM-UP IN THE FEW EXTRA MINUTES I HAD TO KILL BEFORE THE GUN WENT OFF, AND PROMPTLY AT 6:55AM WE WERE OFF!
IT STARTED A LITTLE FAST—I WAS DOING ABOUT 7:00-7:15 MINUTE MILES—BUT I WAS SURPRISED AT HOW FEW PEOPLE WERE ON THE COURSE. THE FIRST BIG HILL CAME AT AROUND MILE 6, AND IT WAS TOUGH.
DID YOU GUYS KNOW THAT LA HAS A TON OF HILLS?
me neither. even though i trained on parts of the course, i clearly didn't train enough on those damn hills! uphill lots, but also a few nice down hills that really saved me towards the end. up until around mile 13, i felt pretty good, pacing for about a 3:15 (woooow too fast!) and then it suddenly got so. hard. heavy breathing, no smiling, misery. bf came up on his bike at mile 14 to coach me throw it, and i saw him pretty much every mile after that [yes, he's dreamy and perfect. sorry ladies and gents, he's taken.] i had other friends on the course who helped me oh-so-much, and i don't know if i could've gotten through the race without them.
i hit the wall in chicago at mile 23. honestly, i think i may have hit the wall at mile 17 here in LA. between the hills and heat, it was really, really challenging . but i knew i had 10 miles left, so i kept trucking. bf pedaled up on his fixie and yelled to me that i had rolling hills to look forward to for the next 6 miles. guysssss it was yucky and i hated it. mucho cursing. lots of ugly faces and animalistic breathing noises. very sexy, obviously. at mile 23, bf came up beside me—i gave him a mean side eye at this point—and told me that halfway through this mile it would be a downhill.
it's downhill from here, straight to the beach. you've got ocean views. you are about to pr, if you maintain this speed. you're going to pr. pick your mantra and just do it.
while i desperately wanted my mantra to be "fuck you, you're an asshole, can someone please grab me a beer", i decided to remind myself, "you are trained for this". those last few miles, while they felt just soooo long, were easier. around mile 24 the course started to go downhill, and then flattened out. i ran through the finish, and ended up beating my time from chicago and PR'ing with a 3:25!
I was pretty exhausted by the end for obvious reasons, but that bling-bling medal was pretty tight, not gonna lie to you. the heavy layer of fog down by the beach hadn't lifted yet, so it was really cold down by the finish line. luckily the fantastic volunteers had earthquake blankets and offered tons of medical assistance. angel city brewery had a beer garden open, but i ended up skipping it to meet up with my family and friends. plus, i was feeling pretty chilly and weak after it was all said and done, and a beer just didn't sound so appetizing!
overall, i'm happy with my time for the race. my goal was to finish at 3:18 and i came in at 3:25, but it was important to me just to PR on this race. i'm definitely less sore—better nutrition this time!—and i'm itching to sign up for another race soon! tell me about your la marathon experience in the comments below!