Distance Totals

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mt Lemmon Marathon 2010 Race Report

The decision
Back in March, an ad hit my facebook page advertising "Mt Lemmon Marathon: the toughest road marathon in the world"...mmmh...never heard of it. And for good reason; after looking at marathonguide.com, I realized that it was an inaugural event, and then checked their web site. Let's see: Arizona, potentially hot (even in October), almost all uphill from 3000 to 9000 ft, and running in altitude. That sounded fun. I talked to my wife, who immediately recommended not signing for it because it sounded really stupid. Naturally, my first reaction was to go for it, but I decide to wait a little. So after a few more weeks of reflection and a saturday evening with a little bit too much wine, I signed up for it and here we go...

A couple of months before the date of the race they decided to change the course. Instead of having the last 3 miles uphill and finishing at 9,100 ft, they modified the last 3 miles to have some rolly polly sections and finish at 8,278. I was sort of bummed with the course change as it seemed that they eliminated one of the hardest part of the course - running the last 3 miles uphill at />8,500 ft but at that point I was not going to change my mind because of this course change, and figured the race would be hard enough...

Previous Elevation Profile:

The real one:

The training
After my June marathon in Newport when I failed to BQ by two minutes and change (3:23 vs 3:20:59..) I decided to take a break in my chase for a BQ time. This marathon provided me with the perfect opportunity to do so. No way I would even try to BQ on that course, but the way I saw it, it would provide me with a great opportunity to get a much stronger base than I have had before. My training for most of my previous marathons had been on low mileage (average 30mpw, peak at 40 or 43), including 3 cycles on FIRST. So I decided to increase the mileage to get better prepared for this tough course. I considered using the 18/55 Pfitzinger/Douglas, however the plan did not account for, nor prepare specifically for the uphill nature of the course. So I went back to McMillan and ordered a 16-week custom training plan. I hit the mileage/times recommended and performed all the workouts, which brought me 8 weeks above 48mpw, and a peak week at 60.1 mpw. Not that high for the high mileage people out here, but a significant increase in average (+50%) for me. My body reacted well to that increase, with some minor aches and pains but nothing major. During the heaviest weeks, my easy paces really slowed down (from 8:15-8:30 to 8:50-9:30), but I interpreted it as the fact that training was working. The highlights of this training cycle were:

1- a kick azz 8-mile training run in Hawaii in 1:29 on the slopes of the Mauna Kea volcano (observatory accesss road). The run started at 6,500 ft and ended up at 9,200 ft, and I had to walk some parts of the last 3 miles due to the steep slopes and the altitude, coming from sea level.

2- the Pier-to-Peak half marathon in Santa Barbara, from sea level to la Cuembre summit, 4,000 ft elevation gain that I finished in 2:02:57 - short of my sub-2 goal but happy enough that I managed my race well, did not bonk, passed many runners in the last 4 miles and finished strong.

3- a very hilly 23-miler long run 3 weeks from the marathon with 3,500 ft up and 3,500 down run at 9:14 pace.

I finished the training cycle at 126 lb, down 6 from 132 at the beginning...and DW complaining about it - she likes me more...well rounded !

Friday: carbo (b)loading and travel day:
I decided to fly on the Friday preceding the race. However this caused some complications on the timing of the Aussie carbo load protocol...so I ran my 3 miles with 3 minutes all out at 5:00am, guzzled two bottles of carboforce (100 g of carb each, 400 cal) right after, and reached LAX around 8am - had time to swallow a third bottle of carboforce in the security line...burp !

Travel went fine and I used my connection in Phonix to eat two tupperware of whole wheat pastas. Only problem was the the Budget Car Rental desk that was understaffed and had to wait over an hour...but I used the line to drink the fourth carboforce bottle of the day (that's 1600 liquid calories and 400g of carbs, not couting the pasta for those who are counting). Then when I took the road...it was like the beginning of the apocalypse: dark skies, black clouds, followed by thunder, ligthning and rain (who knew it could rain in AZ ?), and a fly over of 3 A-10 fighter/bomber planes... On my way to the hotel I stopped at a Trader Joes supermarket to stock up on breakfast items, bananas , and a bottle or red wine. I checked in fine (stayed at the "official" hotel of the race, the Lodge at Ventana Canyon. The room was very spacious, like a minisuite with a small kitchen, and huge bathroom with walk-in shower (space for 3..) and tub. I had dinner at the hotel - a BLT salmon sandwich with cole slaw; not particularly carb rich but enough given what I'd had during the day. In bed at 9:30

Saturday- Route recon, expo, and jacuzzi:
I woke up at 6am without alarm and after breakfast in my room, I decided to drive up the road to Mt Lemmon to get a better idea of what the course looked like. I had checked some photos of the course before and had bought the pacing/elevation info from Greg Maclin, but it is hard to get a real sense of the elevation without seeing it. I was in for an eye opener. Instead of the steady incline suggested by the elevation profile, the route consists in a succession of relatively hard uphill portions and some flatter ones, even a few small downhill segments. I stopped at many points to take pictures, but it's pretty much after driving the course that my time goal went out the window. I was initially thinking that it would be nice to get 4:15 or faster in that course (B goal), the A-goal being sub-4, but after driving it and feeling the effect of the altitude, I made a decision to run the race entirely by feel and to try to be superconservative in the first half..and just to enjoy myself without any time goal.

After driving down, I stopped at a native arts store to buy a Navajo necklace for my wife, and was on my way to the expo. The expo was tiny -- maybe a dozen tents on the Parking lot of the REI store at Tucson mall. I learned that there were about 500 registered for the full marathon, and 400 for the half. However I also saw a few people registering for the race at the expo. I picked up my stuff and decided to leave right away but then I saw a guy wearing a red "Runner's World" shirt who looked familiar. It was Bart Yasso, and I got the pleasure to meet him and chat for a few minutes. His wife was running the full marathon and he would be at the start and at the finish lines. It was really cool !

I also saw the course director, Laszlo Otvos whom I had met at the Pier-to-Peak half marathon back in August in Santa Barbara. After telling him that I drove the course and got freaked out, he mentioned that it took him 7 hours to run the course - while he is a 3hr-marathoner...I decided that it was better not to think too much about it anymore, had lunch at the Cheesecake factory, stored up on Gatorade and went back to my hotel. I soaked in the Jacuzzi where I met Rick, another runner. He mentioned he had only been training a couple of weeks and was running the full...! Well I guess I should not doubt my training anymore since there were obviously some lesser prepared ones. Instead of dining at the hotel restaurant I drove down to the closest Panda Express and had a 2 items with rice followed by a banana. Bed at 8:30

The race
I did not sleep well - too much eating, anxiety...woke up at 2am and tossed and turned until 3am, when I decide to officially wake up. Had breakfast (buttered bread and honey, showered, and boarded the shuttle at 4:15. We were dropped about 0.5-1 mile away from the start line (hard to tell in the dark) and had plenty of time to check the bad and use the port-a's. I decided not to use my hat because it keeps my head warm and it was already sort of warmish for my taste (low 60s)

Near the start, about 5:15am:

Start of the race:

Miles 1-5 : 3138 -> 4334 ft
We got started a 6 am around dawn and I tried to get into a comfortable pace. Around mile 1, many people started to pass me, including a hot blonde girl. I ended up catching a lot of them in the later miles.

At mile2: 

From miles 2-5 I ran near a guy who kept spitting and coughing every 30seconds..fortunately I dropped him at about mile 5. I ran these first miles with a Gatorade bottle and sipped it throughout. Overall the pace felt good and not too challenging. The uphill was regular but manageable. I paid attention to running the tangents really well, and it was amazing to see how many runners failed to this. This is a major issue on a curvy race like this.

Mile__El.gain__ El.loss_ Pace
1 _____213 _____30 (?) 9:46
2 _____249_____ 0___ 9:39
3_____ 307_____0 ___10:06
4 _____295_____ 0___ 10:07
5_____ 237 _____0___ 10:04

(notes: the elevation data from the Garmin don't agree with the data from RunningAhead but I will post them anyway).

Mile 2:

Miles 6-9: 4334-> 5466 ft

I decided to take a GU at mile 5 before the 2nd water station, but unfortunately I missed the water at that station and I only realized it about 20 yards too late. So I decided not to go back and let the GU sit dry in my GI system until the next aid station (8.x). During these miles, I ran with "scream guy" who was very talkative and kept screaming every time we passed a mile marker. I told him he should keep his energy for later and he made fun of me because I was running the tangents...guess who had the last laugh later ? The uphills on these miles were less hard (at least they felt), including mile 9 with a small downhill but part of this segment was on a deep dark gorge where it was pretty cold (high 40s-low 50s ?). I had a small segment where I did not feel comfortable -- I thought maybe this was a combination of the increased altitude and the cold, and the GU starting to solidify in my GI system...I nevertheless took a second GU at mile 8 at the water station, where I finally got my liquids. I got passed by a few people in this segment, including a small asian woman who was really cruising, but I kept to my strategy of keeping a comfortable pace in which I feel I was working, but not too hard, knowing that there would be hard miles to come.

Around mile 8, before being passed by cruising asian woman:

Mile__El.gain__ El.loss_ Pace

6 _____305____ 0____ 10:12
7_____ 295____ 0____ 10:07
8 ____ 256____ 0_____ 9:44
9_____ 187___ 43_____ 9:57


Miles 10-15: 5466 - /> 7000 ft
I knew after driving the course that there would some hard miles in that segment, so I focused on running loose, small steps but regular and get into a groove. The splits show that the pace was relatively regular and effort based depending on elevation gain/loss. That's where I started to drop more people running with me, including "scream guy" and catching up others, including the small asian woman who passed me earlier on, and many triathletes (based on their outfit and shaved legs....). I took another GU at mile 12 before a water station and drowned it with a few cups. Overall the elevation gain was hard on some places, but it was nice to reach the halfway in really good shape -- I reached it in 2:11.

The halfway is also where half-marathoners start, at Windy Point. What was cool was that you could see other runners, way way below. The most scenic point of the course.

Mile__El.gain__ El.loss_ Pace
10 ___ 339______ 0 ___10:22
11 ____188______ 0___9:48
12 ____385______ 0__ 10:26
13 ____ 251______ 8__ 10:29
14 ____ 189_____ 30__ 9:48
15 ____ 231_____ 30__ 10:11

Mile 10

Mile 12:

In action, halfway at Windy Point (photo courtesy Bill Vaughn):

Miles 16-20: 7000 ft -> 8200 ft
I focused on running strong and relaxed while things were getting slightly more difficult because of the altitude. However I was glad because I knew that after mile 20, there would be easier downhill segments. At mile 16 I got interviewed by a video cameraman who ran about 100 yards with me and asked me questions "Is this the toughest marathon you've ran ?" - my answer was that the hardest part in a marathon was the second half so I would give him the answer at the finish. I caught up with a few other runners, including the hot blonde girl at mile 17, and several who were walking, obviously starting to bonk. I patted them in the back telling them to "keep moving" but not much more I could do - it's nice to see that you can keep moving while others are bonking, but I also felt bad for them since the finish was a long way out. Gu and water at mile 18. At mile 18 I had a runner's high , half laughing/half crying and got a very emotional moment thinking about my grandmother. There was not reason for this, but these things sometimes pop up during my runs, and I was really emotional thinking about her - she passed away several years ago but she took care of me when I was a kid because my mother was often away.

Overall the paces slipped a little bit, but I thought I was in good shape because I kept feeling relatively strong and knew that I could use the downhills past mile 20.

Mile__El.gain__ El.loss_ Pace
17 ___ 356_____ 51___ 10:18
18___ 277______0___ 10:35
19___ 239_____ 0 ___ 10:07
20 ___152_____ 57___ 9:14

Mile 19:

Miles 21-26.2: rolly pollies in the 7700-8200 ft zone...
The last half of mile 20, mile 21 and the begining of 22 were downhill, so I tried to use it to relax, use different muscles, and increase the pace to get a chance at getting 4:15 and negative splits. Gu and water at mile 21. I could not hammer this downhill as much as I wanted - only averaged 8:13 pace, but the altitude and the brutal change of running position made things more difficult than I thought.

 Cruising on the downhill, mile 20:

I knew at this point that there would be 2 major uphill miles: 22-23 and 24-25. So I focused on getting relaxed on the downhill while gaining times, while also conserving energy for the uphill. I also had another "high" on one of the downhills, as it felt so good.

Mile 21:

The uphill at miles 22-23 went reasonably well. However the one at mile 24-25 felt really hard. It was a loop segment very close to the finish line, and you could see other marathoners coming down fast, while the slope was brutal. Many people were walking there, including half-marathoners that I caught up with. I ran all the way up, but that sucked up most of the energy I had left and I started to feel my calf twinge, on the verge of cramping. That uphill felt endless, since you could not see the turnaround. I still managed to "hammer" the downhill finish at 7:46 and finished ecstatic in 4:15:3x, my legs almost buckling when I crossed the finish line. Similar feeling as the one I had after finishing my first marathon and at my last at Newport where I ran strong and got a 7 minutes PR.

 Crossing the finish line:

Got my medal -not particularly pretty, but I will take it..:


Mile___El.gain___ El.loss___ Pace
21 _____ 0______ 255____ 8:13
22 _____115_____140____ 9:10
23 _____124_____ 46_____9:15
24 _____278____ 133_____ 8:51
25 _____ 291____122 ____10:33
26______ 0_____ 433____ 7:46
0.1 _____ 55______ 0 ____ 6:51


time ___distance___ El.gain____ El.loss___ Avg. pace
4:15:47 __ 26.11____ 6,077_____ 1,378___ 09:47 min/mi

So I reached my B-goal, and felt really strong except maybe on the last uphill segment, so I am glad that neither bonking nor cramps hampered my performance. I finished 37th but was far from placing (10th of my AG, I guess the 40-44 males were well represented). The winner finished in 3:13. "Asian woman" finished in 3:31, "Scream guy" finished in 4:45, "spit and cough guy" in 5:00 -- and saw many people that I started running with in the first few miles in the 4:30-5:00 range. Overall I am happy with my race - ran a 7 minutes negative split, which is aided by the course but also because I did not run too hard and did not exhaust myself on the uphills early on. Maybe I could have run harder on the first 20 miles, to gain a few minutes, but I am not sure the last 6 would have been as fast. For runners interested in running it, I cannot emphasize enough running the tangents. My Garmin was 0.1 mile short, while many others were "long" because they just ran without focusing on the tangents. This is essential for this course. Retrospectively it's interesting because someome said that for this course, "add 2 min/mi" to your "normal" MP. Well I ran 9:47 pace and my last PR was ran at 7:45 pace !

The NY Times published an article about the inaugural race:


Friday, July 30, 2010

Mauna Kea Access Road Training Run

After I signed up for the Mt Lemmon Marathon, I started my official training program on June 30th. The Mt lemmon Marathon offers a unique challenge of uphill running (+6000 ft) and finish in altitude (8,200 ft). Since I was vacationing on the Big Island of Hawaii, I decided to do a mini simulation training run for Mt Lemmon on the access road to the visitor center of the Mauna Kea Observatory. The access road starts at 6500 ft and ends at 9280 ft – so about 2800 ft elevation gain in 6.2 miles.  I figured it would be a good way to simulate the altitude of the MLM, even though the elevation gain is much steeper than for the race.

The end of the access road to the visitor center. Notice the steep grade on the right side, that levels off to reach the visitor center. 

I got dropped 2 miles from the access road by my family, and got a 2 miles warm-up with pretty much no elevation gain.

Mile 1 (6500 ft): 9:02 + 0 ft
Mile 2: 8:44  + 121 ft

Warm-up miles, just before entering the access road: 

(I am the white spot on the lower left corner of the picture)

Then the fun began at the access road:

Mile 3: 8:56  + 192 ft
Mile 4: 9:47 +278 ft
Mile 5: 10:10 + 346 ft
Mile 6: 12:43 + 599 ft
Mile 7: 12:49 + 468 ft
Mile 8: 15:02 + 774 ft
Mile 8.2: 10:22/mi + 77 ft  - finish at 9280 ft

At the "finish"...notice the "high grade" sign on the right side of the road:

Elevation Profile and Map of the run:

The good news is that I was able to finish the run in less than 1:30, 10:53 min/mi overall…and that I covered in about 10K half of the elevation gain of the MLM.  I also was not too much affected by the altitude, more so by the steepness of the grade. The bad news is that I really got my azz kicked between miles 5-8 and was not able to run the whole thing. During these miles, I pretty much alternated running and walking, with the last mile alternating between running 0.1 mile and walking 0.5 mile, as shown by the pace/elevation graph below:

My average heart rate was about 170 bpm – knowing that I average 140-145 on my easy runs. However on the last 3 miles, the walk/run heart rate profiles were really reminiscent of those observed during track intervals !

So this was a sort of confidence builder for Mt Lemmon, but knowing that I still have ways to go to get properly trained for that course.

After the run, at the visitor center with all the family:

A short hike from the visitor center takes you to the top of the hill with a lunar scenery and spectacular views to the Saddle Road:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Newport 2010 Marathon Race Report

Official Postcard of the Newport Marathon

Back in February I signed up for the Newport Marathon, as a fallback plan in case my attempt to qualify for Boston at the LA marathon would not work. The LA marathon was a bittersweet experience, PR’ed by 30s (3:30:02) but the last 4 miles were painful due to cramping and I was far from my needed BQ time (3:20:59). So after 3 weeks of recovery I had about 8 weeks to train seriously for Newport. Since this was a little short (at least to my standard, I am not a maniac), I purchased a training plan from Mc Millan and trained with it instead of FIRST which I had used before. I followed the plan and flew to Portland the day before, drove to Newport. After a really bad night (I saw every hour of the night on the alarm clock), I “woke up” at 4:45, had breakfast, showered and walked to the start – only 0.5 mile from the hotel.
About 30 minutes before the start
Start at 7am, no chip, and here we go for the first 4 miles – sort of a rollercoaster of short rolling hills, nothing nasty but a little steep, and a ¼ mile segment on loose gravel road.

View from the area of the start
Once you are out of that initial segment, the race is on a flat undulating road bordering the Yaquina river. Very scenic and peaceful and no hills except the last mile. Not much spectators, but I don’t really need them (I actually hate having people yell in my face when I am suffering…). Some segments had a headwind, and the areas of the road exposed to the sun were a little too warmish for my taste, so the shaded areas were welcome. I had 4 GUs  with water, did not try the Heed which was offered since I did not want to try anything new.

I was “sort of” on pace for the BQ until mile 18, when I started to slow slightly but significantly, which kept me from BQing by 2 minutes. Despite this I was very happy with my run, because I felt strong all the way and did not hit the wall nor cramp. I had some small side stitches around miles 8, 16 and 24 but nothing bad. I was able to pick up the pace slightly on mile 25 and 26 compared to 21-24 (despite 26 being a moderate uphill incline) and ran the last 0.2 at 6:59 thanks to a generous downhill finish.

Finish Line (way after I finished...)
I was ecstatic at the end, despite not BQing, because that was my best marathon run in terms of consistency of pace and I felt in the driver seat from beginning to the end. With a little more training, a BQ is in the future ! Here are my splits:

Mile1: 7:43
Mile 2: 7:45
Mile 3: 7:34
Mile 4: 7:39
Mile 5: 7:51
Mile 6: 7:40
Mile 7: 7:41
Mile 8: 7:44
Mile 9: 7:44
Mile 10: 7:42
Mile 11: 7:41
Mile 12: 7:40
Mile 13: 7:40
Mile 14: 7:39
Mile 15: 7:46
Mile 16: 7:41
Mile 17: 7:42
Mile 18: 7:45
Mile 19: 7:46
Mile 20: 7:46
Mile 21: 7:53
Mile 22: 7:58
Mile 23: 7:53
Mile 24: 7:55
Mile 25: 7:49
Mile 26: 7:48
Mile 26.2: 6:59
Final: 3:23:06 – 7:44/mile
Around mile 10, still feeling strong

After the race I went back quickly to my hotel (thanks to a driver from Idaho who was waiting for his wife and gave me a ride back), showered, checked out and enjoyed hanging out at the Newport Harbor with a great lunch of salmon and pasta.
In the harbor, with my finisher T-shirt and medal

Newport Harbor
I also attended the awards ceremony, it was really cool. The older finisher was 81 years old !!
I really enjoyed Newport. It was such a refreshing race compared to a megamarathon like LA, and the people in town were all very nice. I hope to be back next year !

The course along the Yaquina river

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Los Angeles Marathon 2010 Race Report

I signed up for this Marathon when they announced the new course, back in August 2009. I was initially enthusiastic about the new course as it started from Dodger Stadium, passed many landmarks in Los Angeles, including Downtown, Hollywood, West  Hollywood, Beverly Hills, West L.A., and finished at the Ocean in Santa Monica.

After the semi-debacle of the Santa Barbara Marathon in Dec'09, I was expecting to be able to run a good time at this race, and possibly run a Boston qualifying time (3:20:59 or better). However after driving the course sometimes in January, the doubts started to creep in. The course was advertised as a "fast, downhill" course. Although the net elevation is a loss, the first half of the course was "rolly-polly", with hard downhills alternating with a couple of steep hills and more gentle inclines. There was also almost not flat segment in the first 13 miles, which would make for a difficult first half, as the steep downhills would fatigue the quads, and the uphills would make it hard to get into a rythm.

Once you reached the more gentle profile of the second half, the damage would be done and it would be hard to benefit from the last few miles downhill on San Vicente Blvd in Brentwood. I trained as much as I could on hilly terrain but realized this too late to get in sufficient hill training. A few days before the course, the forecast was not ideal - start around mid '60s and reaching the '70s in downtown...probably cooler close to the Ocean, but only for the last few miles.

I decided to reach the start of the race by limo. Too early to be dropped by the family, and I figured that in case of problem, the fixed price of a limo would be advantageous compared to a taxi. This was a semi-good choice. Arriving at the 10-110 freeway junction, we realized that the traffic was so bad that we would not be able to reach Dodger Stadium that way. After circling in Downtown L.A. for 30 minutes, we then found out that it was impossible to reach Dodger Stadium through surface streets, as all the roads were closed due to the race. I started to get angry to the driver, we took the 110, where we saw cars stuck on the freeway and runners abandoning vehicles to run to the stadium...:

Runners trying to reach the start running on the exit ramp of the 110 Freeway (photo courtesy of RWOL forumites)

We then took the 101 freeway north, the first open exit, and the limo ended up dropping me at about 2 miles from the Stadium after we realized there would be no way to reach the stadium due to road closures. It took a half an hour walk to reach the stadium as I tried to walk slowly to preserve my glycogen stores for the race. Once at the stadium, I got into the sub-4 corral and waited. Due all the traffic nightmare, the start got delayed by 40 minutes, and it started to become uncomfortably warm. I drank my Gatorade bottle and we finally got started at 7:45am.

The first mile was a loop around the stadium, with a relatively steep uphill. I did not feel comfortable, and I felt my right calf that was really tight, probably due to the walk to the stadium and then the waiting in the corral. After exiting the stadium a steep downhill to reach downtown. I tried not to go too fast to avoid fatiguing my legs for the uphills to come. The first one was a short but steep to reach Disney Hall. Then some more ups and downs to Echo Park and Sunset Blvd. Arriving in Hollywood, the slopes were more gentle and I got into a semi-good rhythm. However, the pace was around 7:50 and I realized that a BQ would not happen on that race, so I revisited my goal and tried to make it under 3:30 and beat my Santa Barbara personal best of 3:30:30.

 Near the Chinese theater I spotted a runner wearing a "Mar Vista School" shirt. This is the same school that my children go to, and I chatted for a couple of minutes with that runner. After leaving Hollywood, I was glad to be done with the first half and its alternating ups and downs. Arriving in West Hollywood was fun, with a lot of drag queens cheering the runners and some pretty funny signs. However the temperatures were becoming uncomfortably warm and muggy, not so great for marathon running. After West Hollywood, we reached Beverly Hills. This is where my pace started to slip significantly. I got caught by the 3:30 pace group around that time. Shortly after, I saw Robert, my taxman who was there to encourage runners. He pumped me up, encouraging me not to let the 3:30 pace group go. A couple of miles later, it was Century City, and I saw Edie who told me prior to the race that she would be there. She took a few pictures of me.

At Mile 18.5 in Century City...still in good shape (Photo Courtesy Edie Gralla)

Runners reaching the Mile 18 marker in Century City (Photo courtesy Edie Gralla)

This is the first place where I remember starting to pass some runners who looked like they were in serious trouble. I was in semi good shape myself, but tried to keep the pace at around 8:00 min/mi or below. In Westwood I saw Matt, a grad student in the Gober lab who cheered me up, and near the VA center, Deepa, a postdoc from the Koehler lab. It was nice to see some familiar faces in these miles 17-19 when things start to get hard but it is still a long way to the finish.

In the VA center, there was a very short but steep hill who probably took a bigger toll on me than I initially thought. About 0.5 miles after going up that hill, at mile 21-22 in Brentwood, I started to feel twinges in my right calf. I knew that feeling from the Santa Barbara Marathon, and knew that if I pushed too hard, a full blown cramp was to be expected. So I tried to keep the pace at 8:00 or below on my GPS, while trying to relax to avoid full cramping.

In Brentwood,  there was a lot of crowd support, in particular a deafening wall of cheerleaders at mile 21. However this was mentally difficult as being on the verge of cramping made me feel like I did not want to have people yell in my face -- I would have rather been on a solo training run. Miles 22 to the finish were a long, agonizing run. Looking back at the pace, I did not slow down that much, since the pace stabilized at 8:03 min/mi. The downhill on San Vicente helped me keep the pace, and I caught up with many people walking or run/walking and who were in much worse shape than I was. However it really felt like a "death march" as I though I would start to cramp the next minute or so...a very long 4 miles to the finish.

We finally turned the corner of San Vicente down to Ocean, with just 1.2 mile to go. That 1.2 mile seemed to go on forever. A female runner was with me during the last couple of miles, and we sort of pushed each other not to slow down for that last mile but I could not push harder than 8:00/mi. Last trick of the organizers: down on Ocean you could see from far away a large orange banner, making you think that it was the finish. Alas, it was only mile 26, with 0.2 to go...argh ! A final push to the finish, and as soon as I crossed the finish line, my calves went into full-blown cramps and I almost fell on the ground after finishing. A volunteer picked me up, asking if I was OK, and I told him I was, that it was only muscle cramps. I got my medal, space blanket, drinks and orange, and then looked for the family who was there to pick me up. We finally found each other -- Catherine freaked out with the traffic zoo in Santa Monica. I was so happy that this race was over and I hugged everyone.

Only after did I realize my finish time: 3:30:03...so no sub 3:30 but a 30 seconds personal record. A bittersweet result; a PR is good, but the course and weather made this race a tough one, and I was clearly not well prepared for the hills, which beat up my legs and made for a difficult last 4 miles.  I did not do so badly as I passed many runners in the last 4 miles, but still a hard race. Walking 2 miles before the start  probably did not help either, and the warmish and humid temperatures in downtown and Hollywood were not so great either.

My splits and stats from my GPS and the race web site page; I did not set my GPS to 1-mile split but it shows the average from miles 0-2, 2-10,10-15, 15-20, and 20-26.2.

I will probably not run the LA marathon in 2011. The course is just not conducive to running a good time, and the logistics of getting to the start were a hassle. ( I admit I should have taken the shuttles to the start from Santa Monica). So while it was fun to run by all the landmarks, the new Stadium-to-the-Sea course is not a fast course and I will probably not run it again, at least if I go after a personal record.