Monday, March 22, 2010

LA Marathon Thoughts

Getting game face on at the crowded start.

I ran the LA Marathon yesterday and 4 hours and 43 minutes later I remembered why the word “marathon” demands respect.

As I was pushing through the last three miles of the marathon, ignoring the excruciating feeling of my toe nail being pounded and slowly wrenched from my toe, it occurred to me that someday a scientist could do some kind of brain test on repeat marathoners to discover if we are missing something – a brain component that registers pain and reminds us to avoid it.

Remember. Avoid. Remember. Avoid.

Listen, it sounds like the cadence of feet running a marathon … remember, avoid, remember.

A couple of months ago, when I signed up for this marathon, I had recently enjoyed the Malibu Marathon. I had read Born to Run and just about every recent issue of Runner’s World cover to cover. I was feeling like a runner. I even flirted with the idea of ultra marathoning.

Everyone was talking about LA’s fabulous new “Stadium to the Sea,” mostly-downhill route, and I just didn’t’ want to miss out on the fun. I had finished the last LA marathon in what I considered almost great time, and I wanted to shave it down to 4 and half hours.

So a couple months ago I started training -- a few moderate weekday runs and regular weekend runs. I enjoyed my training runs with Kip, my daughter and friends from Students Run LA, but I didn’t really push myself much.

Which I realize is fine, but now that I have had 24 hours to process the marathon experience, I realize it is also why this race took me 13 minutes longer than I had hoped. And why it hurt so much.

I think running for fun is much better for the body than running competitively – even if the only person you are competing with is yourself. But I think my problem was that I trained for fun and then tried to run the marathon competitively. And that made it less fun.

So … I learned something.

It was also hot and I hadn’t slept well the night before. And I was getting over a slight cold. So maybe it was a combination of things. All I know is that it was more difficult than I had expected.

But maybe that was the problem. Maybe I just set my expectations too high. Two years ago I had never run four miles together and in the last 10 months I have run three marathons -- without much recovery time in between.

So today I talked to a friend about training for a triathalon. I thought about learning how to swim better so I could use that as my main exercise, maybe try pilates again or yoga.

Funny thing is, this evening I also caught myself saying, “next year when I run the LA marathon …”

So maybe I’m missing something.

My brother was there to cheer me on during the route. He surprised me near the end and rode his bike to the finish so he could be part of the marathon end chaos. Thanks Tim!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Running with my Daughter

I ran 8 miles with my daughter this morning.

Last night I went to a fabulous little work day/dinner party, and consequently slept in, only to be awoken by my I-hate-mornings daughter standing beside my bed jubilantly singing along to my CD alarm clock.

“Take me above your lights…. Carry me through the night!”

I glanced at the clock. Owl City had been playing for 20 minutes and my daughter was fully dressed, running shorts and sneakers.

Are we still going to run?

I really didn't feel like running. But the Students Run LA team I have been training with were meeting in less than a half hour at their high school, and it was the last weekend training run before the marathon next week. So I got up and got out the door.

The sun was bright this morning, taking full advantage of a cloudless sky, and by mid run it felt more like a July afternoon.

Every few minutes I looked over at my daughter, game-faced, charging up the hills through Griffith Park, and asked, "How are you doing? Are you ok?"

And it was always the same.


We passed the trains at the south entrance and I told her how we rode those when we first visited LA seven years ago. When her brother was barely sitting up on his own. She didn't remember.

I pointed out the snow-capped mountains in the distance. The horses on the trails. The picnic area where we had her brother's 4th birthday party, complete with a jumpy and a pinata.

She showed me where her girl scout troop rode horses. I was not part of that trip and I had forgotten that she had done that.

I thought about how our memories converge and part and overlap. I remember some things and she remembers others. It's special to run together. It is only a few years that we parents and kids run on the same road.

By mile six she stopped saying "Great!"

We had been going uphill in the sun for the last few miles. Her cheeks were flushed. I gave her the last of our water.

It was my turn to tell her she was doing great, that I was proud of her.

Only two weeks ago, I had felt the same agony, charging up the same edge of the park, only then I had been near the end of a 20 miler. I could tell her with honesty, "We're not that far. Not that close either. But not that far. You can make it."

The road dipped into a gentle downhill and we ran under the shade of overhanging trees. She sensed the change and perked up for the last bit, but not without admitting, "this is alot harder than I thought it was going to be."

I understand that.

She was pretty wiped out at the end. Although a banana, more water, trail mix and promise of a barbecue with the students seemed to help.

I felt bad though. I was afraid I had ruined running for her. Letting her join me on a long run, a run much longer than I had ever attempted until about a year ago.

When we got home I asked her what was hard about the end of the run, what hurt.

I don't know. I can't remember. It was just hard. But I'm glad I did it!

Yeah. I understand that too. That's why I keep running marathons.