Tuesday, February 16, 2016


About a year and a half ago friend and fellow Loopster, Brad Angle (aka Bangle) who lives out in Redondo Beach, CA, decided that the LA marathon would be ideal for a winter Loopfest.  A little back story on the Loop - we are a tight-knit group of runners from all over the world of all ages and abilities.  Several of us have connected and become fast friends through the Loop forum on Runner's World.  And a Loopfest?  Well, it's exactly that - a 'festival' that is centered around a specific race where any number of Loopsters come together and hang, eat, race and hang some more.  When Bangle sent the email out about the LA marathon, I was intrigued.  When I realized it was taking place on the same weekend as the Olympic trials marathonthus offering a unique opportunity to see the best distance runners in the country, I was more intrigued.  When I realized I could stay chez Bangle along with many of the other Loopsters, watch the trials with a huge group of Oiselle teammates and then run a marathon myself, I was in.  LA or bust!  Fast forward to fall 2015.  This past October, I surprised myself at the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon by finishing in 6th place with a 3:04.  I hadn't planned to race hard in LA, but after Mohawk I thought it might be 'fun' to ramp up my training for the next four months and then see what I could do come February.  So, I set a new goal and I started working my ass off.  Which brings us to last Friday, the 12th.  On the day I turned 41, I headed to LA to connect with friends (both old and new) and teammates and to hopefully run the race of my dreams.  No big deal, really.


It's worth mentioning here that the week before I left the temps in Boston were the lowest to date for this winter (single digits) while the temps out in LA were unseasonably high (upper 80s).  Yes, I was checking the forecast daily and, yes, I was mildly freaking out each time I looked.  And, yes, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it beyond stressing, which I did a lot of.  Anyhow, off to LA I flew.  My day of travel was relatively painless which is always an unexpected gift.  When I arrived in CA it was 6:30 PST, so basically, my bedtime.  Fortunately, Bangle scooped me up from the airport, which was such a treat as I had no idea where I was going and I had zero energy to figure it out.  When we got to his pad the Loopsters were in the middle of a mad game of Boggle and Meghan (aka MildSauce) was cleaning house.  This eventually led to a mad game of Word Twister (new game?).  I had neither the physical or mental capacity to play either but was happy to sit and watch.


I'd already met about half of this crew in Boston the year before so I introduced myself to the rest, took a seat on the floor and chilled out.  I was so damn tired and really wanted to go to bed, but it would have been weird to turn in at 7:30.  I did my best to hang on and engage as best I could.  It didn't hurt the Brad and his wife Nancy had picked up a birthday cake for me and we had a little Loop celebration to close out the day.  That was really cool and a nice little sugar high. 


I headed up to bed around 8:30.  I would be sharing a pull out couch with Caitlyn (aka Hot Pink Sneakers) who I had not yet met in person but felt like I'd known for years the minute we started chatting.  We both officially hit it around 9 (midnight for me - what?!).  And then, as expected, my eyes popped open at 5:00am.  It was still dark and the house was quiet so I just laid in bed, checked email, and zoned out.  Caitlyn was up, too, but we were both pretty wiped, so we stayed put for another hour or so.  And then I smelled coffee.  Up and at 'em.  My bud, Roger (aka Ocean_101), handed me a steaming cup of joe, bless him.  I sipped and continued to wake up as all the others made their way downstairs .  Two cups and many conversations later, we made a plan to head out for a shakeout run around 7:30.


It was a foggy morning at the beach, but the sun was breaking through and it was warming up.  I'm not going to lie, it felt amazing to head out in shorts and a t-shirt.  Eric, Erin and I fell into step together, cruised and chatted for 20 minutes or so.  Not surprisingly, after our run, I felt like I'd known both of them for years, too.  When we got back to Bangle's, we all shifted gears and got ready to head to the Olympic Trials for the marathon.  The OLYMPIC TRIALS.  Yes, I was giddy.  The best of the best would be running by me multiple times and the top three men and women would then move on to represent the USA at the Olympics in Rio.  Out of the 200 or so women, 18 of them, including top US distance runner, Kara Goucher, were from Oiselle, which is pretty mind blowing.  Needless to say, it was going to be an epic day.  Roger, Eric, Erin, Megan and I hopped on the train together to head downtown.  Aside from the run in with the large gentleman who body slammed me in what I now think was a pickpocket attempt, it was a relatively uneventful ride.  When we popped out of the station, the buzz in the air was electric.  We stopped and watched as the elite men and women ran by us while they warmed up.  To be around all these amazing athletes was beyond insane.  It was blazing hot out and I had chills.  

(photo taken by Roger Beutler)

The men's race began at 10:00 and the women's shortly after.  Not ideal from a heat perspective.  I walked down the street a few blocks to find the the Oiselle crew which was a snap as I quickly spotted a flock of birds representing in their red, white and blue and screaming their brains out for our teammates.  I don't get to see a lot of these gals very often so I went down the line giving hugs and high fives like it was my job.  


All of us watched, cheered, talked, laughed, cried and cheered some more as the runners came by multiple times.  My heart broke for them as the sun blazed down and the heat was brutal.  There were not enough race volunteers to hand out water and towels fast enough.  It was such a test of courage and will for these men and women to fight through the worst possible conditions for running a marathon.  We watched in awe as top runners such as Kara and Meb Keflezighi ran by, fighting it out for a spot on the Olympic team.  


It was equally as exciting to watch all the Oiselle women cruise by, many of them running in the race of their dreams.  


Unfortunately, as I cheered I was baking in the sun, my legs were getting tired and my energy was draining big time.  I was doing my best to stay hydrated but it was virtually impossible to stay off my feet with all the excitement around me.  By the time it was over, I had absolutely nothing left in the tank and I was really nervous about bouncing back the next day.  My own issues aside, there were some pretty unbelievable performances in the trial race and it was clear that every single runner put their heart on the line.  It was incredibly inspiring and so cool to be a part of.  (click here for results)  Around 2:00, I headed over to the expo to grab my number and check out all the swag and then, officially wiped, I went back to Bangle's house to grab a quick bite with the Loopsters.  Unfortunately, on our way to dinner, we were side swiped by a crazy lady and had to pull over and wait for the cops to arrive and write up the report.  The good news is we were all okay.  The bad news is that all four of us were pretty shaken up.  That was a major bummer.  After dinner, I headed over to a hotel which I'd booked in anticipation of needed a solid night's sleep before the race.  No offense to Caitlyn as she was a lovely roommate.  By 8:30, I was settled in and after laying out all my race gear for the next morning, I finally put myself to bed.

The next morning, the Skechers Performance shuttle would be taking team members who were racing from the Fairmont hotel over to the start at Dodger stadium.  At 4:00am.  Oof.  I set my alarm for 3:50 and willed myself to fall asleep.  Not surprisingly, I had a pretty restless night.  I was nervous about sleeping through my alarm and as a result I was up every hour or so checking and double checking the clock.  Finally, I got out of bed at 3:00am (YES - 3:00) and slowly got myself ready.  Around 4:00 I walked down to the Fairmont to hop on the bus.  The temp was lovely, high 50s with a light breeze.  Of course it was 4:00 in the morning, so...yeah.  We got to the stadium by 5:00 and the race wasn't starting until 6:55, so we had ample time to use the bathroom, eat, drink, stress and use the bathroom again.  Having the luxury of the Skechers waiting area was such a blessing.  


We checked our bags around 6:30 then headed down to the start.  Game on.

Miles 1-7
In order to run a 2:59 marathon, which is the time my coach and I had set as my goal, I needed to hold a 6:52 per mile average pace.  To make it 'easier' he suggested I try and stay within a range, somewhere between 6:45 and 6:55.  Since I knew it was going to get hot later in the race, I decided to bank as many miles in the lower end of this range before the sun came out in full force.  It was a risky move as going out too fast often backfires.  But, I didn't feel as though I had much of a choice given the situation with the weather.  The first mile was a steady incline.  That kind of sucked.  I tried to relax, find a spot in the crowd and just cruise up.  Miles 2-4 were nice and smooth and I worked to find a rhythm that fell within in my pace zone.  Miles 4 - 6 were hilly.  The whole section was tough; the downhill as much as the up.  I took a GU around 45 minutes in and then I tried to sit back and 'relax'.
Miles 7-14
To my dismay, the 6:45 pace was feeling hard to hold.  And given the effort I was having to make to maintain it, doubt seeped in pretty quickly.  Fortunately, the GU gave me a much needed jolt of energy and my music kicked in to help with motivation, so I was able to push the doubt aside and shift into auto-pilot for a while.  Thankfully, I started to feel good again, so I took advantage and banked some faster miles in the 6:35-40 range.  Again, this was risky as it was early to push hard.  But, again, I decided it was worth it.  I took another GU at the half and hoped it would help propel me through the next section.
Miles 14-20
For the next stretch I was working hard, but feeling okay with it.  This stretch was hot and there was no shade so I could feel my body reacting to it.  I was taking water and/or gatorade at every stop as I feared dehydration would be my downfall.  I considered stopping and drinking to make sure I was getting enough, but I worried it would throw off my flow so I just forged ahead.  I could feel my legs getting heavy around mile 18, but my energy level was still decent, so I continued to push.
Miles 20-26.2
These miles were rough.  My head was still in the game.  But my legs were getting heavier with each step.  They were moving, but the effort to keep them going was enormous and I was struggling.  I was so pissed as I had been on goal pace up to this point and based on how I felt, I knew my sub-3 was likely not going to happen.  It was such a mental blow.  Miles 20, 21, and 22 were slower, but not too far off.  And then mile 23 took me down.  Every step hurt and I could barely lift my feet.  I wanted to stop so badly but a little voice kept telling me that if I stopped I was doomed.  So I plowed on but it was torture.  I was so bummed and my legs were like concrete blocks.  This was the point where the race could have gone to hell in a handbasket.  Somehow, I mustered up enough energy to give myself a talking to.  I reminded myself that I'd done many a 10k on tired legs, that I was still capable of finishing the race in a decent time and that I needed to dig in and hold on.  That helped quite a bit.  I was able to pick up the pace again for my last 3 miles, but it wasn't enough to reach my goal.  It was a bittersweet finish as I was so elated to be done but, at the same time, a little sad that I'd been so close.

FINAL TIME: 3:05:29
PLACE: 1st FEMALE MASTER (40+), 15th OA

I grabbed my clothes from the Skechers tent and gingerly headed down to the beach to meet up with Dave and his family.  Shortly after I got myself settled on the ground (or lying in fetal position) I got a text from my friend Laurie who told me that I was the first female master and 20th woman overall.  Well, that cheered me up.  Then my sister called and told me I was a f***ing badass.  That cheered me up even more.  The calls and notes from family and friends kept pouring in and slowly but surely my spirits were lifted and eventually I was able to wrap my head around the bigger picture and be excited about it.


After a couple hours, I hobbled back to my hotel for a shower and a nap.  The nap never happened.  But oh the shower.  Just...wow.  There was some initial stinging on my chest due to the fact that my number had rubbed against my salty skin for most of the race.  That hurt.  But after that, I was in heaven.  It took me a long time to get out.  Real long.  Since I couldn't sleep, I headed down to the hotel porch and enjoyed a beer while I watched the rest of the runners meet up with their friends and families at the finish.  It was a lot of fun to watch these mini celebrations unfold.  Hugs, tears, high fives, pats on the back, so much love for the runners from those who were there to support them.  A good reminder that marathons are such an accomplishment for all of us, regardless of what kind of runner we are.  


I joined Dave and his family for dinner which was lovely.  We all took in the sunset and then I headed back to my hotel to call it a night.  I had intended to head back over to Bangle's for one last Loop hurrah later in the evening, but my exhaustion level was at an all time high and I haven't been more excited to get to bed in a long, long time. 

The whole weekend was life changing.  Between meeting and hanging with the Loopsters to watching the Olympic trials with friends and teammates and then to throwing it all on the line myself, just...holy shit.  There are no words, really.  I'm not going to lie and tell you I wasn't initially disappointed.  I was.  I took a risk and went for it.  Sometimes it works.  And sometimes it's just not enough.  Looking back, I think the travel with the time change and the standing around in the sun on Saturday might have impacted me even more than the heat on race day.  Then again, maybe it was just an off day.  It happens.  In the end, though, I was and remain proud of myself for getting gritty in those final miles, for finishing in a time that I could feel good about and in a place that I was more than thrilled with.  The marathon is such a beast; so humbling.  It takes everything out of you and then some.  There's not much in life, or at least, in my life, that presents such a monumental challenge that is also so incredibly rewarding, regardless of the outcome.  When the result is what you want, there is nothing better.  But when it's not, it just fuels that fire to get back out there and try it again.  Have I already signed up for marathon #14?  Yes. Yes I have.  Stay tuned....

Listen to this:
Fire - Jack Garratt


  1. Incredible. Such a motivation - you've motivated me so much during this brutal winter. I'd see you get back from a run and it would pump me up to go run during my lunch break. The conditions were so terrible this past weekend and pulling out the race you did was incredible. You should be so proud! And can't wait to hear what #14 will be! xx

  2. Great recap. Wow, what a jam packed weekend. I have no doubt that with the right conditions you will nail that goal next time.

  3. Great recap! Your are so strong and you will rock your goal next time.