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From the moment I stepped outside on November 30th, 2014, into a brisk, 27 degree morning in Seattle, awaiting the start of the Seattle Marathon, I thought to myself, “Damn, I need to find a warmer marathon.” I had signed up for the marathon back in October, when long runs went smoothly in sunny, 60 degree temps, hoping against all hope that November 30th would bring un-Seattle-like weather for the race. I was wrong.
That day I fell short of a PR, no surprise given the cold temperatures and strong winds blowing off Lake Washington for several cursed, long miles in the second half of the race, and I went away from the race promising myself to seek out a race with better weather. The next weekend I watched Matt run to a stellar PR of 2:33 in the California International Marathon, in Sacramento, where the temps were in the 50’s on a flat course with PRs in the air and somehow in the Gatorade on the course. It felt like everyone I met at the finish had PRd (I know they hadn’t, but it sure felt that way); I was so bummed I hadn’t signed up for it before it sold out.
Watching Matt PR motivated not only me, but also Matt’s brother Jeff, to sign up for a marathon so we too could go after a PR again, on a fairly flat course, sometime in the spring, in a temperate climate. Hence, Los Angeles. Though the year before had reached 85 degrees, I had read that as a fluke that likely wouldn’t repeat itself. Sigh.
I didn’t let myself look at the weather forecast for LA until about 5 days out. It looked bad. Like high of 90 bad. I wasn’t really worried until the race announced an updated start time, moving the start time from 7:25 to 6:55 to have less time in the heat. I’ve never been part of a race that big (26,000 people) where they actually make that massive of a change in such short notice. It’s actually really impressive that the race directors responded like that; kudos to them for the big change. Then we started receiving daily emails from the race, warning runners about the heat, advising to forget all hopes of a PR and just enjoy the course (seriously, how many of us really look around at the course as if we’re taking a guided tour of the city?), and ensuring us of the extra water stations, misting stations, and medical tents on the course. I started getting scared.
I felt relieved when the race finally started, as I was able to forget all the build-up to the race. I had been nervous about how I’d do in the heat, worried that I wouldn’t PR (because of course I wouldn’t follow the race directions and just enjoy myself) and had been so anxious all week that I felt nauseous (whole different story on how I need to get better keeping my anxiety in check). After 10 miles I was at 1:18.04, right where I wanted to be, and I felt surprisingly good. I had water at every aid station, including dousing myself with a cup, and 2 Powergels. After the next I reached 20 in 2:36.21. I had been completely focused the entire time, just getting from one mile to the next, keeping my pace in check, keeping myself as cool and calm as possible. I really don’t remember much about those miles other than fairly steep climb in the first several miles, a really cool drum beat in Chinatown, and the volunteers handing out tons of liquids.
But, I could tell my body was really starting to feel the heat from 20-22, where I slowed a little. No amount of water dousing was helping and I was starting to gag on my gels and heave as if I was going to puke. I tried damage control as best I could, slowing down even more, putting ice in my sports bra, ice in my hat, running on the most shaded side of the street… Other than being unbearably hot and feeling out of control of how it affected me, I was just sad. Sad a PR slipped away with each slower mile, miles 22-24 being 8:40, 8:41, and 8:58. The only solace was that everyone around me was fighting the same battle. A lot of people slowed to a walk, many to a shuffle just like mine, and all of us just tried to hang on until the end. The course blessed us with two final miles of gradual downhill, and I picked it up only because gravity was helping, crossing the finish line in 3:30, about 10 minutes slower than I was going for.
It seems like the bigger the race, the longer the post-finish line chute, making it all the more difficult to just stop moving. I teetered as I walked through the chute, leaning on railings for brief moments, again stuffing my bra and hat with ice, dousing myself with more water, and being thankful I was done, even though it was still taking me 15 minutes to get from the finish line to the family reunion area, where I guessed Matt was waiting. I found him laying on the grass in the shade, gleaming with his 2:37 finish time, not a PR but still amazing considering the conditions, and I plopped on the grass, finally allowing myself to turn off all mental and physical functions while I pulled myself together.
I’m not getting any younger, I may only have so many marathons in me, and I want a time under 3:20 so badly that it’s my mission to still try and do that. I believe it’s possible, given my work over the last year of training, and so I’ll likely run the upcoming Vancouver BC marathon on May 3rd. It’s a fairly fast race, it’s close to home, and it’s enough time to recover from LA, get in some good workouts, and be ready to race again. The weather is questionable, as who knows what we’ll get in early May in the Pacific Northwest, but if it’s between 27 and 90 degrees, I should have a good shot. Plus, it’s in Canada, where they mark it every kilometer, which I’m oddly excited about!
Thanks to everyone who followed us throughout the race. Thank you to Aunt Rosemary, Matt and Jeff’s 96 year old Great Aunt, for hanging out with us for a few hours in LA the night before the race, thank you to Kelly and Stan, our cousins who took us to the start of the race at 4:30am (!!!) and then sat outside and cheered us on as we passed mile 19, and thanks to the fans of Urbyville for cheering us on from home.
***Random Reminder – we still have some free AT and CDT books available if you’d like a free copy***