So today was the big one, twenty-three miles. It’s our longest run yet and our last big one before the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon which is now only a few weeks away. I actually wasn’t as nervous about this one as I thought I would be. I guess that’s the result of having run this distance in the past and just accepting the fact that certain parts of my body were going to hate me even before I completed this run. Still, I had trouble getting the sleep I needed as I woke up at 3 a.m. instead of 5 which is what I set my alarm for. The gods of sleep have not been kind to me lately.
Like our last long run, we got to the site at 6 a.m. instead of 7 to prepare. It was surprisingly warmer than usual that morning, and I ended up leaving my jacket behind as a result. While I was afraid I would regret not wearing it at the start, I never found myself missing it in the slightest.
Before we got started, the Team to End AIDS coaches got us excited about the challenge ahead. It was especially nice to see Coach Scott talking to us as he’s been fighting various forms of cancer this past year. He informed us that one of us that one of his tumors has shrunk to half of its former size and that another one has all but disappeared, and that an operation will take care of the rest. We’re proud of him for successfully battling one of the most non-discriminate of diseases, and he gave all the runners a special wristband which had inscribed on it “SLAY THE DRAGON,” the dragon of course being cancer. They also had a special message on the other side of them which was different for each runner, and mine said “STRENGTH, COURAGE, BELIEVE – COACH SCOTT.”
With this run, we were all determined to take it easy at the start. Even the coaches said that if we went at a slower pace than what we usually run at, then that’s fine. I felt like I was run-walking for a bit, and it was cool to see how I kept up with the other runners doing that. Going faster than usual did not even come close to crossing my mind.
We went through some familiar spots through parts of Burbank and Glendale as well. I thought much of it would be confined to Griffith Park, but I was pleasantly mistaken. Still, part of me was hoping to run by Samantha Phillip’s birthday party (she made a memorable appearance in “Phantasm II”), but it was on the other side of the hill on Crystal Springs Drive. We already ran over that hill the previous week, and the coaches were not about to inflict that on us again.
Among the sites ran by were a number of nice apartments that I wouldn’t mind moving into if I had the money. We also ran through some of the rich neighborhoods with big houses that we all hope to be able to afford someday. Looking at them brought out the Senator Marco Rubio in me as, for those of you who read my article on day 15, I ran past these houses wanting to tell the owners “congratulations on your home and I will see you soon!” It would have been worth it just to see their reactions.
Speaking of day 15 which had for us a musical contest, today’s training run had us participating in a different one which the coaches called “The Amazing Race.” The questions focused on different countries around the globe, and realizing that made me feel like I was screwed. As much as I like to believe I have a good understanding of the world around me, something like this comes along to remind that I don’t. It’s further proof that I don’t get outside of America enough.
Among the countries we had to answer questions about were Scotland, South Africa, and Israel. We also had “road blocks” in which only one member of a pace group could participate in. They involved different types of foods from various countries, and we had to name them. A big thanks go out to Oscar who has actually visited many of these countries and knew the answers to many questions, and also to Sandy who knows her chocolates better than the rest of us did. Without them, us Twisted Blisters (myself especially) would have been at a loss.
This was a brutal run not just because of the distance we were running, but because the weather was heating up more quickly than in past weeks. The water stops became even more necessary than usual as we could never get enough water or Gatorade (lemon-lime flavor was my preferred choice) on this day. Believe me when I say this is a surprise because even though we’re not in the spring season yet, the forecast has Los Angeles experiencing some seriously frigid temperatures next week.
I came prepared this time with a couple of energy bars (one which I consumed before I got to Griffith Park), a dozen salt packets, and some gel blocks for a boost I knew I was going to be desperate for at some point. The funny thing was that I got more of a boost from consuming a salt packet than I did from the gel blocks. As disgusting as eating one can seem (my fellow pace group members said they’d prefer to eat a pretzel instead), we need some form of salt to help absorb the water we keep putting in our bodies.
As always, we are reminded of the possibility of getting hyponatremia which basically is a condition in which we drown from the inside. One of my friends almost died from this, and that woke me up to the fact that we really can never have enough salt inside of us. I can always count on salt to rescue me when I feel a little off, but I’m always happy to pass that up for some peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers!
“Muscle memory” is a term I have been most thankful to learn about in training as it came in handy today. I figured various parts of my body would begin to get sore at the halfway mark, but that really didn’t happen until just a few miles from the finish. Our pace group started this run at 3:1 (running for three minutes, walking for one), but that eventually changed to 2:2. I tried to keep up with the 3:1 pace as it hurts a little more to start running again after walking, but I unconsciously found myself falling into the 2:2 pattern as I lost track of time. I never bothered to change the interval timer on my watch, but I adjusted to the new pace accordingly by keeping an eye on the runners ahead of me.
When I made it to the end (which felt like an eternity), there was a barrage of T2EA coaches and volunteers there to cheer us on like they never have before. They had it set up where we there were everyone cheered us on, and there was even a ribbon for each of us to break in half once we crossed the finish line. Upon doing so, I wondered if I actually broke the ribbon in half because it didn’t feel like I had, but I did. We all received medals congratulating us on finishing twenty-three miles and which had the following inscription:
TEAM TO END AIDS
ENDURANCE TRAINING PROGRAM
There were signs for all to see listing the names of everyone who have made it this far and are officially signed up for the 2012 LA Marathon. We started off at 6:30 a.m., and I finished around 12:30 p.m. which sounds about right. Also, there was a catered breakfast (or lunch if you want to look at it like that) which had sausages with sweet potatoes, fruit salad, and mozzarella couscous. The last one sounded more appetizing than it usually it is so I had two helpings of that and the sausage. It was delicious, and the only thing which took away from it all was that there was no chocolate milk to be found. Of all the things people could forget for a run like this, chocolate milk should have been the last thing to slip anyone’s mind.
Also waiting for us at the end was a couple of tiny plastic swimming pools filled with ice and water which served to decrease the swelling in our feet we expected to deal with after twenty-three miles. This actually saved me the trouble of having an ice bath upon getting back to my apartment as well as a few bucks on a 7 pound bag of ice. They gave us Ziploc bags to put over our feet to keep them dry, and as a result we could keep our socks on if we wanted to. But the effect of these swimming pools on our feet was felt more deeply if we took them off.
Sandy joined me in indulging the feet into this seemingly subzero temperature water, telling me this was the first time she took any kind of an ice bath. Seeing her put her feet into the plastic iced swimming pool made this all the more clear as she soon said:
“This hurts even more than running!”
Granted, putting your feet in water this unbearably freezing can hurt as your feet don’t adjust so quickly to the frosty temperature. I kept telling Sandy she would thank herself for doing this, but it’s understandable as to why she didn’t feel that way at first.
There was a photo opportunity to commemorate running the distance with balloons present to make it clear to all who are subscribed to our Facebook updates. Normally I shy away from these things, but the need to make this accomplishment official overwhelmed me. I stood between a couple of balloons, one which was shaped like a 2 and another like a 3. When I tried to adjust the number 3 balloon to where it wasn’t in my face, the string snapped off and it sailed away into the sky. I’m not sure what that balloon was filled with, but it went so high up to where others remarked:
“The 3 is free!”
I felt bad about it eluding my grasp, but the T2EA coach there (who said she liked reading these blogs I write) said it was the second time they had lost a number 3 balloon today. This led me to wonder if that one flew as high as the one I inadvertently freed from its captivity. I guess it’s better than seeing or hearing it pop.
We all deserved the medals we got, and my congratulations go out to those who weren’t sure they could run all twenty-three miles. One runner who decided to stop at mile nineteen ended up continuing on after taking some GU energy gel, and that makes me want to get some for my next run. For some bizarre reason, the gel blocks weren’t doing anything for me this time.
This wasn’t the first time I ran twenty-three miles, but today’s training session still felt like an amazing achievement. I felt really good about it even though my feet hated me as I expected they would. It certainly beat running the same distance last year while it snowed in Burbank which had frost forming on our clothes and steam later rising from them. I’m starting to believe my body is going to recover quicker than I originally expected it to. I can now safely say with confidence that I truly am a marathon veteran.
Congratulations again to all those who ran the distance today!
Other days of 2012 LA Marathon Training:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5.5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9.5, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17
The Marathon Runner’s Nightmare