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2012-366 Day 304 – LA Rock and Roll Half Marathon

So, as you might have gathered if you read the blog towards the end of last week, I was regretting the decision to sign up for this race. In fact, pretty much the only reason I decided to do it was to protect my pride, I didn’t want to have to tell all the people that knew I was running it that I didn’t, nor did I want to have to explain it. I did decide, however, to make it as low key as possible, I asked Jess to stay home and I was only going to be there just before the start and just after I finished.

My time frame got a little squeezed when I had trouble falling asleep the night before and overslept the alarm by half an hour. I had built in some time, but I feared traffic near the race (being downtown LA and and all), especially as the race grew closer. I picked up all the gear that I gathered the night before and equipped myself for the race, getting ready and out the door by 6 am. I stopped by McDonalds and picked up breakfast, since I hadn’t properly carb-loaded the night before I wanted to be sure I had something to eat so I didn’t have any problems like the 10 miler I bonked on a couple weeks ago. Prepped and ready, I hit the freeways and sped off towards the race.

I was surprised that there was actually some traffic on the freeways at that early hour, but I didn’t really hit anything heavy until the last few miles before my exit. After getting off the freeway I headed towards the lots that I knew, and angled towards the L.A. Live lots that were supposedly offering discounted parking. Gigantic mistake on a couple levels, 1) the streets had been narrowed down to one lane (which I didn’t realize until I was a couple cars away and a half an hour later) and 2) the garage that I was aiming for wasn’t running the promotion and wound up costing me 25 dollars to park in (sadly, I had no time to rectify the situation). I found a spot, made final preparations, and headed towards the line.

Pardon me while I get slightly indelicate here, but there is always the matter of the pre-race restroom break to consider. There was a significant line for the two stalls at the parking garage, so I decided to try my luck near the line. The first set of 10 or so port-a-potties each had a line ten people deep (situated just outside Staples Center), and I considered waiting there briefly (it was about 7:10 at this point, with the race starting at 7:30 for the elites) before coming to the conclusion that there had to be more somewhere else. I headed to the start corrals and made my way across, where I saw on the other side of the street was the command center and dozens of port-a-potties with no line. Mission accomplished, I found my corral (number 17) and stepped into the back, started to stretch and checking out all of the costumes and the scenery around me.

I can see the Starting line up there . . . some where.

The end of the crowd was much closer.

It took a while for 16 waves of starts to go off, but we eventually made our way to the front. I gently eased my way through the gaps in the crowd after we crossed the starting line and settled into a slightly too fast pace. I was trying to do my first mile in 11 minutes, but wound up finishing it in about 10 and a half. At 11 minutes the music in my headphones briefly subsided and the words “walk, walk, walk” floated into my ear. I pulled off to the side of the course and started walking for a minute.

I had decided to take a new approach to the half marathon after completing the Disneyland Half Marathon with Belen just before Labor Day. As we went through the course, alternating running and walking, I was struck by how much energy I had and how much easier the whole experience was for me. Knowing that I’m still a ways away from my target weight, and my running training has been crossed up with all sorts of other activities, I decided to try the run/walk method promoted by Jeff Galloway (who is sponsored by Disney and had Belen converted on our Disney run). Looking at my ideal pace, which I decided to try at 11 minutes per mile, the recommendation was two and a half minutes of running to one minute of walking. I wanted to use the first mile as a warm up, which is why I ran the whole thing, but I set the app to start my intervals immediately after the first 11 minutes were done.

We ran away from Staples and the Convention Center and towards the campus of USC. The furthest point of the initial out and back, out the other way and back course (it formed a sort of V, with runners going each direction and only cones separating them) was the Colosseum, which we ran around and started back towards the starting area. I looked for the space shuttle at the Science Center, but couldn’t get a glimpse. I must also compliment our friend Michael, who had a hand in constructing the Galen Center, as it made for a wonderful bit of shade along the course. Actually, that was a major advantage of running in the city, while the sun had come up, the buildings were providing shade while we ran in the streets.

As the miles started ticking up, with little clocks next to the mile markers, I started doing the math (my wave started about 31 minutes behind the official time) and realized that I was doing very well on time. Mile 6 brought us back by the starting line and a bit past that was the finish, and I watched some of the faster runners already on their way in. I still had half way to go, but was feeling pretty good.

There were only two major hills on the course, otherwise it was pretty flat. The first one came at the seven mile mark on Figueroa right before we made a right turn into the tunnel on 2nd Street, which was pretty cool to run through. The second was heading onto the bridge on 4th street. Both were timed so that I got a walk break part way up, and that helped a great deal.

The advantage of the out and back style course was that I could see the markers on the other side and gauge how far away they were on the way back. The twelve mile marker was at the end of the tunnel, so I knew when I started the tunnel on the way back, there would be just over a mile left. The end of the bridge marked the furthest point and the start of making our way back (just over 9 and a half miles in), and the view from the top looking back at the city was rather spectacular, especially on such a clear day.

I can’t say much about the streets between the tunnel and the bridge, however, because they were pretty run down. There was one section which housed a fish market that smelled particularly pungent, although I suppose that encouraged me to run faster. Arriving back at the tunnel was a blessing, and I looked at the clock in even more amazement than I had the last few mile markers, as I was doing better than I ever had before. A walk break came up in the tunnel and I decided that it was the last one, I would get to the end of the tunnel, turn left down the hill and run all the way to the finish line (about three quarters of a mile).

I did so, and it felt fantastic. I probably passed five hundred people on the way down Figueroa, and, while the 13 mile marker took a little longer than I thought it should have to come into view (now I know how you feel Belen), I saw it and then the finish line shortly thereafter. The finish clock read 2:58 as I approached, I was going to make it to through less than three hours from the original starting gun, where my original goal was to finish in three hours from when I started. I crossed the line around 2:59 on the clock, which, subtracting my 31 minute delay, means I had a personal best time of 2:28:02 seconds (I, of course, found this out later on the official results). My previous best had been my first half marathon in which I clocked a 2:39:04.

I can’t really describe the feeling of having blown away my expectations so completely. From just wanting to finish to avoid embarrassment to posting my best time yet was an unfathomable result. I gathered my medal, a small Jamba Juice, chocolate milk, and a Marathon bar and started to make my way back to the car. After texting Jess and pausing briefly to hear the headliner band (which happened to be on the way back towards my vehicle), I paid my parking fee and found the car. What I had missed in my discombobulated state that morning was the fact that I left my driver’s side window completely rolled down the entire time I was there. Thank the Lord for many things that day, but chief among them was that not a thing in the car was touched, it was exactly as I left it.

I headed home and then out to softball (for which you already have the story from Sunday). It will still be a while before I sign up for my next half marathon, as I have the L.A. Marathon next on my schedule as I try to do both L.A. and New York next year (this year’s edition is scheduled for this Sunday, all the best to them if they try to run it). The feeling of accomplishment that this one left me with, however, probably means that I’ll be back for another round somewhere.

Weight: 222 Loss: 18 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 343.1 miles
Softball Stats: Game 7 – 2/3 (.666), 2 2B, 1 R, 3 RBI Season – 17/24 (.708), 5 2B, 11 R, 10 RBI
Fitocracy Level: 26 ID: disciplev1

Posted in Matt 2012-366, Matt General. Tagged with , , , , , .

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  1. M said

    Congratulations on your new PR !

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