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You can read about the fabulous start to my third full marathon in Long Beach Marathon Recap — Part I.

As you might recall I’d run the first half of the race in 1:51:57. My goal for the race was to beat my personal record of 3:57:29 from Mountains2Beach. In order to do that I’d need to run the second half in 2:05:31 or less.

Miles 14, 15, 16 (8:31, 8:34, 8:30)

The first half of the Long Beach course is so nice that it’s no insult to say that the second half is not as spectacular. On this section you’re running through a nondescript part of the city. I simply focused on keeping pace and running steady.

Miles 17, 18, 19 (8:35, 8:59, 8:28)

Around mile 17 you enter the Cal State Long Beach university campus. It’s nice to see some college kids out early on a Sunday morning to cheer on the runners. Unfortunately that hill during mile 18 is tough. On the plus side I used the subsequent downhill to pick the pace back up and break through the wall that I started to hit around mile 18 in my last full marathon.

Miles 20, 21, 22 (9:06, 9:31, 9:41)

Here you’re passing back through that same part of town.

Thumbs-up at Mile 20

Thumbs-up at Mile 20

It got harder and harder for me to keep running strong around mile 20. I wouldn’t say I hit the wall though, because when that happened in my last full marathon my times dipped into the 10s and 11s, whereas here I managed to stay in the 9s.

There is a steep, quarter-mile hill as you approach mile 21. I am actually pleased to see that split of 9:06 for that mile.

I struggled to take in liquids around this point, both because my body was tired of drinking that much and because I was working so hard by this time that I was having trouble catching my breath after running and drinking at the same time. Somewhere around mile 21 I made the executive decision to walk for about 5 seconds every mile so I could drink a few much-needed sips of sports drink and then resume running. I have no shame about not running the whole way and in retrospect I consider it a very good decision to adopt the strategy to walk for my fuel breaks.

I also grabbed a couple of cups of water on the run and dumped them over my head. The sun was out in full force by this time and I was feeling the heat.

Miles 23, 24, 25 (9:50, 9:57, 10:04)

Right before mile 24 the full marathon course joins back up with the half marathon course at its 10.5-mile point. I’m sorry to say this about what is overall a very nice course, but this joining back up with the half marathon course just plain stunk. By that point in the half marathon race I’d say the vast majority of half marathoners were walking. Maybe it just seemed like that to me in my frustration with the giant sea of people in front of me. It was such a tough time in the race anyway and it was not fun to deal with having to dodge people who were walking in the middle of the course and did not have the courtesy to walk to the right-hand side.

Mile 26 and the Finish (9:41, and for the last .44 by my Garmin: 8:48)

In spite of the crowds I managed to pick the pace back up a bit for mile 26. I basically told myself to embrace the pain and let my legs go.

It was a huge relief when the course split off into two different chutes just before the mile 26 mark and very few runners split off with me to the full marathon chute. At that point the course turns off Ocean Boulevard and heads down a very welcome hill right into the finish chute. I turned on the speed and with a huge kick at the end I brought my pace down into the 8s. I felt like I was flying at the finish and it was wonderful to hear the announcer say my name!

Of course as soon as I crossed the timing mats I came to a stumbling stop and could barely walk. Funny how you can run at what feels like a blistering pace for 26.2 (or 26.44 miles by my Garmin) miles and yet struggle to walk as soon as you stop running.

I was so thrilled to be done that I forgot to stop my Garmin until after I got my medal. I knew I’d beaten my former personal record of 3:57:29 but I wasn’t quite sure by how much. My watch said 3:54 something by the time I stopped it. I later got an email from the timing people saying my time was 3:53:27, but it turns out that was my gun time and my official net finish time was 3:52:42! That’s a PR by 4 minutes 47 seconds. That might not sound like much but it’s huge for me. My goal pace for the race was 8:35 and I ended up averaging 8:52. I achieved my “A” goal of running a personal best time, and also achieved my “B” goal of not bonking. While I ran the second half of the race significantly slower than the first (about 9 minutes slower, in 2:00:55 compared to 1:51:57), I wouldn’t say that I hit the wall, certainly not anything like I did in my second marathon.

Recovery

Best of all, I met up with my family and I felt well enough to walk back to the hotel with them without visiting the medical tent this time. I now believe that the uncontrollable shaking I experienced in Ventura after Mountains2Beach was due to underfueling. This time I stuck to my pre-race and race nutrition plans and that paid off. I ran just as hard this time, but with more training and better fueling, I stayed quite strong through the end and my tank wasn’t empty when I finished.

I feel a need to give an unsolicited shoutout to the C2O Coconut Water sponsors. That cold can of cononut water tasted so good at the finish line that I drank the whole thing right down within seconds. I don’t think I could have tolerated another sip of traditional electrolyte sports drink and I was grateful to have that instead. There were other great treats given out at the finish line too but frankly I could not tolerate eating any solid food. I had exerted myself so hard, left it all out on the course, and — let’s just be real here — I was trying not to throw up. So it was: coconut water = liquid gold; my favorite post-workout protein bar = dirt.

All in all I’d call it a hugely successful race. Ask me if I’d recommend Long Beach to a friend and I’d say yes! (More review to come in another post. I know what you’re thinking but yes it is possible for me to have more to say!)

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It’s two days after the 2013 Long Beach Marathon and the experience still feels surreal in a good way. Anytime I wonder if it really happened though, my sore muscles remind me of the reality!

Race Expo

My family dropped me off at the Convention Center on Saturday at 5 p.m. with just an hour to spare before the expo closed. I don’t like to cut it that close but that’s what a Fit Fun Mom does when her eldest daughter has a Saturday tennis match (she won!) and her middle daughter has ballet rehearsals for the Nutcracker. Thank goodness the drive to Long Beach only took 45 minutes and there was zero wait to pick up my bib once I got there. T-shirt pickup was a breeze as well, and as a bonus I actually like the short-sleeved women’s fit blue tech shirt with a nice design wrapping around the bottom.

I’m not a huge fan of expos in general but I did wander around. Lucky for me I happened upon the booth for the Clif Bar Pace Team. They were offering free pace bands and I quickly snatched one up for a 3:45 marathon. I’ve never seen those offered before. I know you can print your own pace wristband or order a pace temporary tattoo, but what a nice touch for the sponsor to offer free pace bands at the expo!

Race Hotel

The main hotel was booked by the time I got around to investigating places to stay and it was just as well because I ended up using Marriott Rewards points to book a free night at the Renaissance, which is within easy walking distance of both the expo and the race start (let me tell you though, it feels like a lot longer walk when you’re doing the “marathon shuffle” back from the finish line!)

Pre-Race Carbo-Loading

I booked an early reservation at La Traviata for some fish, pasta and bread for Saturday night dinner. As I’ve mentioned before, one of my main goals for my third marathon was to focus on pre-race and race nutrition and do my best not to bonk during the race. I planned to eat a dinner with lean protein and plenty of carbs at about 6 p.m., followed by an early bedtime.

I got to sleep around 9:30 and felt ready to get up before my alarm even went off at 3:45 a.m. It wasn’t hard at all to get up. The hard part was trying to choke down a bagel with strawberry jam, followed by some oatmeal and a banana. Based on information from The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition: A Cutting-Edge Plan to Fuel Your Body Beyond “the Wall”, I had calculated exactly the number of grams of carbohydrates I should consume two hours before the race based upon my body weight. It turns out that eating that much is a lot easier said than done though. Before a race, my body is busy emptying out, if you know what I mean, and really is not all that interested in taking anything in. Only the banana tasted good and the rest tasted like cardboard (even though I’ve had no problem eating those foods before long runs, when I’m not suffering from race jitters!) I washed what I could down with a cup of coffee and called it good.

Starting Line

I was out the door by 4:30 a.m. and at the start by 4:45 a.m. With an impressive row of porta potties, I never had to wait more than a few minutes (I imagine it might have been a different story when the masses of half marathoners showed up for their 7:30 start after the 6 a.m. full marathon start). I entered the corral at 5:30 a.m. and seeded myself near the 3:45 pacer. I eventually set my throwaway clothes in a pile off to the side to be picked up for donation. It wasn’t chilly, which didn’t bode well for cool race temperatures. Still it was gorgeous out in the pre-dawn. I chatted with a very nice man next to me about how this would be his 44th marathon. I only wish I’d gotten his name so I could check up on him after the race. We said hello again at the 7-mile mark but I never saw him again.

We were all quite disappointed when the race start was delayed 20 minutes due to waiting for the police to secure the course. I certainly understand that need and I can see how it’s an even bigger issue in a port city like Long Beach, but when you’ve timed your race nutrition down to the minute it’s a bummer to wait that long. Still, everyone stayed in good spirits and all the runners were very well behaved during the mass start.

Miles 1, 2 and 3 (8:33, 8:40, 8:45)

Part of my “do not bonk” plan was to go out 5-10 seconds slower than 8:35 race pace for the first three miles. The course felt a little crowded for the first several miles and I basically went with the flow. It helped that I hadn’t wanted to go out fast because it helped me resist the urge to waste energy by dodging and passing other runners.

Miles 4, 5, and 6 (8:26, 8:20, 8:27)

The first half of the Long Beach course is gorgeous. You get treated to a spectacular view of the Queen Mary and a fireboat spraying all of its hoses high in the air in tribute to the runners. There was still a marine layer of clouds covering the sun and it was perfect running weather to start. I felt lucky to be there, running someplace new to me and feeling good on fresh legs.

Miles 7, 8 and 9 (8:18, 8:27, 8:35)

At mile 7 you hit the beach path. I’d heard in prior years, before they split the half and full marathon start times, this part of the course could be a bottleneck but it wasn’t (except where pace groups took up the whole path, and I just stayed a nice distance behind the 3:45 pacer). I saw my family just after mile 7 and they handed off a bottle of Fluid to me.

All smiles on the beach path at mile 7. I wore neon pink so my family could see me a mile away (their words)!

All smiles on the beach path at mile 7. I wore neon pink so my family could see me a mile away (their words)!

I got lots of “Go Mama” and “I love you” and it was a huge boost to me — and to many others around me who heard all the happy chatter!

Miles 10, 11, 12 (8:33, 8:27, 8:31)

At about mile 10.5 the marathon course splits off from the half marathon course. Since the half marathoners had not started with the full, it was easy to follow the full marathoners and the signs for the well-marked course. As we headed out toward Marine Stadium, the sun started to peek through the clouds. I tried to put on my sunglasses but they were so sweaty from sitting on top of my head that it wasn’t worth putting them on (and I eventually chucked them at my support team at mile 20!)

Mile 13 and the Half Marathon Point (8:33)

I felt great for the first half of the race and thoroughly enjoyed it. After the 13th mile, my mindset changed and while I was still enjoying the race, the intensity of my focus increased. I had crossed the half marathon timing mat at a gun time of 1:52:42, which was 1:51:57 chip time. My family met me with another bottle of sports drink and I was ready conquer the second half of the course.

For the recap of the second half of the race, continue reading at Long Beach Marathon Recap — Part II.

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Me reaching for a sports bottle from my 5-year-old at the 13-mile mark.

Me reaching for a sports bottle from my 5-year-old at the 13-mile mark.

Just a quick note to say that I really enjoyed the Long Beach Marathon and the race went well for me. I’m still waiting on an official time but according to my Garmin (which in all the excitement I forgot to stop right away at the finish line) I came in around 3:53, a personal record for me. I am super sore but super happy, and will write up a full race report when I’m done celebrating!

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Remember how I joked that you know you’re ready for your big race when you start seeing “signs” or omens? The other night I was doing word puzzles while soaking in a hot bath (one of my favorite taper luxuries) and I solved an 8-letter word scramble:

word puzzle

Yup, I’d call that a sign.

With just two more days until the Long Beach International Marathon, I am busy with last minute details (reservation at Italian restaurant for carbo-loading dinner: check) and I am firming up my goals for the race. This will be my third full marathon. I ran Santa Barbara in 4:02:39, and Mountains2Beach in 3:57:29.

So, my goals, in no particular order:

1. Beat my best time of 3:57:29.
2. Do not bonk (not as hard as last time, anyway. I fully expect to slow down toward the end but I want to stay strong, of course).

Training this round has gone well. I’ve stuck to the plan (from Run Less, Run Faster) and the training has gone even better than it did for Mountains2Beach. I have definitely gained some speed if my ability to complete the speed workouts and tempo runs is any indication. I am also working on my nutrition plans for pre-race carbo-loading and fueling during the race. I think I seriously under-fueled during my last full marathon and it was not a fun experience. I’d really like to fix that for this third full marathon. To that end, I’ve been reading The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition: A Cutting-Edge Plan to Fuel Your Body Beyond “the Wall” and tweaking my nutrition plans.

If you’d like to follow along with the fun on race day starting at 6 a.m. PDT on Sunday you can plug in my race bib number 3601 into the Racemine Result Kiosk. That site will provide time splits at five points along the course. Wish me luck! And be sure to spare some good race vibes for Kim at Day with KT as she does her 50 mile race!

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I can accept that it’s fall. I love fall, even in Southern California where the temperature merely goes from “really hot” to “not quite so hot” and the grassy hills go from “fire-tinder-brown” to “probably-won’t-spontaneously-combust.” What I cannot accept is that it’s October. And that the Long Beach Marathon is 10 days away.

A mere two days ago I was all, “I love taper!” and then wham! This morning I woke up with a sore throat. This should not be surprising to me given the sore throat my husband has been battling for the last week, and the strep throat my daughter had a couple weeks ago (mine is not strep according to the rapid strep test I had this morning, just in case). So, not surprising, but definitely disappointing. Now instead of “I love taper” it’s all “What if I can’t run tomorrow? What if I shouldn’t run tomorrow? What if I’m not better by next week? What if I spike a fever? Should I take the antibiotics the doctor prescribed in case I do get a fever, or the sore throat gets worse? What if my husband can’t find me on the marathon course and I miss a water stop? What if I bonk at 18 miles again?” Apparently sore throat germs have a way of infecting the brain as well. Time to remind myself to trust in my training, and what better way to do that than to review my miles for the past month.

September Miles

Swim: 0.5 miles, 30 minutes, 1 workout

Bike: 59.94 miles, 3.35 hours, 4 workouts

Run: 139.91 mi, 23.13 hours, 13 workouts <—– Now that is what I like to see.

Strength training: 0.57 hours, 3 workouts <—- This is embarrassingly low.

Other: Walking for 6.35 miles, 3 hours, 8 workouts; serious yard work for 45 minutes.

Random Photo for September

Mike and me all dolled up for a YMCA fundraiser

Mike and me all dolled up for a YMCA fundraiser

Goals for October

Well, I’ll write up a separate post about my goals for the Long Beach Marathon on October 13, 2013, but let’s just say they involve a P to the R and not so much a B to the Q.

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Twelve more days until the Long Beach Marathon! I am totally loving taper and I say that without a trace of sarcasm. No taper crazies this time because it’s my third full marathon in a year’s time and frankly I am a little burned out on the training regimen and happy to cut back a bit. I still love all things active and I never regret a workout, it’s just that I’ve noticed I have a little less desire to get out there early on a weekend morning for a long run!

That leads me to some random signs that you’re ready for the big race day:

1. You have a distinct tan line from your GPS watch.

Bloggers are so weird. Yes that is photographic evidence of my Garmin Forerunner 110 tan line. Because you really needed to see it to believe it, or something like that.

Bloggers are so weird. Yes that is photographic evidence of my Garmin Forerunner 110 tan line. Because you really needed to see it to believe it, or something like that.

2. You even have a tan line on your cubital fossa from when you bend your arm during a long run and the elbow pit gets protected from the sun. (Terribly sorry, no bizarre photo of my cubital fossa tan line today).

3. You are more than a little bored by your usual running routes, bike paths, and swimming holes and you can hardly wait to get out on the race course.

4. Even your most supportive family and friends are tired of hearing about your training and the race. (In truth not a single person ever shows me a sign that I’ve run (ha ha) my mouth on too long about my training, but if I’m sick of talking about it I know that other people must be tired of hearing about it).

5. Your perspective has changed and a run you used to consider “long” now seems blessedly short. I ran 13 miles on Sunday and felt like I got off easy. Perhaps that’s because, if you count the Santa Barbara Marathon and Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, I’ve done thirteen 20-mile long runs in the last twelve months.

6. You’re already thinking about which big race you might like to do next, depending on how this one goes.

7. You have “extra” energy that you burn off by doing projects around the house. For me this usually involves cleaning a closet or organizing papers.

8. You start having nightmares about being late for the race start or getting lost on the course. (Tell me I’m not the only one who has these kinds of bad dreams before a race!)

9. You start seeing “signs” or “omens” of how your race will go. I’ve started noticing all things Long Beach — a friend talks about vacationing there, on a clear day I can see 15 miles all the way down to the Long Beach harbor, I find coupons for the Aquarium of the Pacific.

10. You’ve booked the hotel, studied the course map, planned your race day fuel and gear and now you just want to DO THIS ALREADY!

Do you notice any other signs that you’re ready for the big day? Do you have nightmares about the race?

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During the course of a normal week I work out 5-6 times. Three runs: speed workout, tempo run, long run. Two to three cross-training workouts, most often bike rides but sometimes a swim thrown in (more often if I’m training for a triathlon). I change up the different days that I run but lately it’s been speed on Tuesdays, tempo on Thursdays, long run on Sundays. If need be, I can push the tempo run to Friday and still have a rest day or cross-training day on Saturday before the long run on Sunday. EXCEPT. The universe has conspired to teach me a lesson. That lesson is: carpe workout. Seize the workout!

Three weeks ago a few family members, including me, had a sore throat. I decided not to push it on Thursday and I took a rest day in the hopes that the rest would help me fight off whatever bug was going around. Sounds wise, right? EXCEPT. The next day my middle child spiked a fever and started vomiting. I felt so bad for her. She’s always the hardest hit when anything is going around. At the same time, I felt bad for me because there was no way I was getting out for my long tempo run. I compromised by cutting down the mileage and running on the treadmill while I listened to an audiobook.

Fast forward two weeks. Yet another sore throat was making the rounds of the family, but I didn’t think much of it because there wasn’t a fever associated with it. I didn’t run on Thursday as usual for my tempo run because we had company coming that afternoon and I wanted to concentrate my effort on cleaning — it takes a lot of energy to sweep and mop this joint, even if I’ve just done it two days before for my husband’s band friends to come over. EXCEPT. I should have learned from the fever/vomit episode. That Thursday night my oldest daughter’s sore throat became so bad that she started having trouble swallowing and speaking. (Mail my mother-of-the-year award to: 000 I’m-really-sorry-I’ll-know-better-next-time, I-owe-her-some-ice-cream, USA). My husband took her in to see the doctor and of course the rapid strep test came back positive. The doctor casually mentioned that my daughter might get worse before she got better (code for: you let this go so long she’s got a serious infection and she’ll have some fallout as the antibiotics start to kick in). Sure enough, my daughter spiked a fever (when I swear she didn’t have one before) and looked awful. Even though she’s old enough to stay home on her own for an hour or two, there was no way I was leaving her home alone so I could go out for a 10-mile tempo run. And no way I was doing a 10-mile tempo run on the treadmill in the afternoon. I tried. Really I did. I had my running clothes on, I had my running pack on with my sports drink in the bottle, I had my iTouch loaded. I just could not bear to run for an hour and 40 minutes on the treadmill after an already stressful day.

So, I learned the bitter lesson: carpe workout. Seize the workout! If you CAN workout on a Thursday, don’t put it off until Friday, no matter the reason. If you don’t you just might end up doing 10.6 miles on a Saturday, with 8 of those miles at marathon pace (8:35 if you must know), followed by 20.4 miles on Sunday (whether or not you need help with the math, that’s 31 miles for the weekend). That Saturday 10 miles turned out to be a lovely run, actually. The weather finally cooled down here in SoCal and it was just glorious to go for that run. EXCEPT. The next day I still had the 20-mile run on the schedule. I wasn’t so jazzed about that. Turns out, it was another glorious day, and I just got out there and did it. And while it was the slowest 20 miles of the five 20-mile runs I’ve done for this training cycle, it was strong and good training for running on tired legs.

And now, I enter the amazing three weeks of taper. I used to loathe taper. Now I embrace it. It’s a time for me to focus on my nutrition choices (given that I’m not working out quite as hard) and to embrace the extra time and nervous energy, which I generally put into making up for any cleaning tasks I let slide during the intense weeks of training. Three weeks until the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon! I’m excited, intimidated, resigned, and just plain happy I don’t have strep throat.

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