Lack of blogging was never intentional - time just passed. After the Chicago Marathon, suddenly it was the holidays. And then we had a pet snail. Then it was the new year and training for LA was in full swing. Then the snail died (very sad). Suddenly, it was March and race time and almost four months had passed since I last wrote. Life became crazy busy and unfortunately, writing fell to the bottom of my priority list.
The good news? I carved out three hours of today to do simply nothing other than "recover" - which to me, means I can download all of the events of yesterday into a safe place. The bad? None, really, other than I might swear a lot. So grab a cup of coffee and have a seat - here's the LA Marathon recap.
It was quite a weekend. On one hand, I've never felt more prepared for a race. Yet on the other, I've never had so little time to rest or recover. We arrived at the Expo for packet pick-up on late Saturday afternoon to get my bib with 63 minutes to spare. We had t-ball earlier that morning, which meant leaving Vegas around 11am. Just skip t-ball, right? Not that easy. I'm the head coach, Brian's an assistant (this is a whole blog post in and of itself), and it was team picture/Opening Day. There was some "parade of teams" we had to participate in -- as well as by agreeing to be head coach, I could pick the picture time. I chose 8am. Wrangling 12 five year-olds to be in their full uniforms and pose for pictures in alphabetical order is akin to herding cats, but unbelievably, we did it with time to spare. I ran home during the break to pack the car and made it back for the parade. I drank 33 oz of water as we stood in the outfield, baking in the sun, fretting we would not get to LA by 5pm.
I'll spare you the details about the rest of Saturday (and the sorry state of California freeways), but just know we made it. I got my bib, ate my last meal around 6pm, and headed to bed at 9pm for my 3:40am wake-up time. I was scheduled to take the 4:30 shuttle out of Santa Monica. Race organizers had changed the start time to 30 minutes earlier because of the record temps expected. For desert dwellers, 90 degrees doesn't sound too bad (we call that "October"), but when running, always add 20 degrees (fyi: this is a good way to determine your clothing). 90 + 20 for 26.2 miles = pure misery. I had my salt capsules - which I had never practiced with - and was consuming about 100 oz of water and electrolyes for a week prior, but was still concerned. Once that marine laver burned off, it was going to be beastly hot.
I got about two hours of sleep on Saturday night. I actually fell asleep in my corral on Sunday morning. No joke. One minute, I was propped up against the guard rail, the next, I was peeling myself off the concrete, looking around blurry-eyed at the sea of shoes that were now at eye level. I actually wiped dirt and pebbles off my cheek. I must have dozed off for 10 minutes. Talk about a lack of adrenaline -- my body was physically exhausted and I hadn't even run a single step. I tried to shake off the bad feeling and pump myself up, but the only thing I could think was, "I really don't want to do this."
Even typing that out kills me. My training had gone so well -- 13 weeks of challenging speed work, successful hill days and rewarding long runs (with a partner!) easily made this my best training program yet. The main reason was Boot Camp created a running team for both LA participants and Summerlin half-marathoners. I could do speed work with friends? Under close supervision? No treadmill, no Nic Cage? Needless to say, I was there every week early, happily sitting under a light post, anxious to hear about the workout in store that night. I rearranged my family's entire schedule to get there - enlisting a friend to help with child care, making sure it didn't disrupt Brian's crazy work, and occasionally dragging Scotty with me when necessary. The Tuesday night speed session offered little time for recovery before going into Wednesday's 6am hill day, but I felt myself growing stronger every week. I was going to nail LA.
Then, the Tuesday before the race, everything just kind of fell...apart. I ate something that just destroyed my stomach. I lost four pounds in two days and didn't recover physically until Friday. I felt weak and dehydrated. On Thursday night, my long run partner texted and said she's bowing out due to a lingering injury. This mentally unhinged me. I was so sad for her, so mad that all of her hard work would go unrewarded a mere three days before race day.
As I stood in my corral Sunday morning, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, my heart simply wasn't in it. I was annoyed we had to pay $15 to park at the expo we spent 20 minutes attending. I was irritated with the Southern California freeway system. I was seriously pissed it was going to 90 degrees in March. There were lots of f-words swirling through my brain.
Then, inexplicably, the race volunteers dropped the ropes between the seeded corrals, so everyone started moving forward together. I was a "D" (it went from A-E, and then the open corral in the very back). This is to accommodate the faster runners (with better times in previous races). As we shuffled forward, the corrals blended. I just walked with the crowd. A woman wearing lip gloss and a very complicated looking braid glanced over at me then looked at my bib. "You're a D?" she asked me. I nodded. She glanced over at her partner/husband/boyfriend and motioned for him to look at me, too. "We're B's," she informed me. "My friend is a D and they wouldn't let her in this corral."
I nodded again. "Yeah, they dropped the ropes a few minutes ago. I'm not sure why," I explained. "Everyone started moving forward...so here I am."
She sneered at me. "Well, I'll see you on the floor," she muttered, before turning her back on me.
And like that, my brain exploded.
F*ck this stupid town and f*ck this stupid lady who actually put lip gloss on to run a marathon. Running is a sport known for NOT being aggressive; any runner worth their salt knows you aren't competing against each other, just yourself. A marathon is a beautiful display of human will, a triumph over adversity and a way to push and encourage each other to reach our best potential. It's not about beating other people (unless you're elite, and we were not) or making others feel badly about themselves. Six minute miles or twelve minute miles - we're all in this together. This is what I love about it - this is why I keep doing it. I want to push myself, to excel and to not hurt others. Running is crazy hard. Kindness goes a long way.
My tolerance for unnecessarily competitive people had reached an all-time low. I wanted to scream, "RUN YOUR OWN RACE!" I wanted to smack her in the face and pull her stupid braid. Instead, I took a deep breath and I followed the advice I always give Scotty when he's upset with someone: just walk away. So I took three giant steps to my left and never saw Lip Gloss again.
And with that, we started running.
I don't think I woke up until mile 4. I kind of slogged through the first few, occasionally glancing down at my split tattoo, two minutes under pace. It was still cloudy out and the temp felt manageable. Regardless, at every water station, I grabbed a Gatorade, took a swallow, then took two waters; one in, one on. My (unbraided) ponytail was soaking by mile 8, along with the entire back of my shirt.
Right around mile 7, a seven foot tall man ran up along side me. His skin was the color of mahogany and looked to weigh about 130 pounds. He stretched his hand out to me and automatically, I shook it. "Hello," he said solemnly. I popped out an ear bud. "Hi," I said, my curiosity getting the better of me. "Are you having a good race?" he asked me.
"Uh...yes?" I responded. Do I tell him about Lip Gloss? I looked him up and down. "Are you an elite runner?" I asked. He was a bit tall for a Kenyan.
"I am a runner, yes, but I am not elite," he stated. I nodded politely. Was he going to run with me for the rest of the race? I don't want to run with anyone, let alone have to make small talk for the next 19 miles. I smiled and told him to have a great race, and he trotted off. I never saw him again.
Right around mile 8, the voice in my head was screaming for me to just quit. This was ridiculous - I was still two minutes under pace, doing great and feeling okay. I looked around and thought about quitting; how would I explain this to Brian? He had done all the driving yesterday (and would drive home later as well). I paid to do this. But nothing - my music, the crowd, the other runners - could motivate me. I just wanted to be done. The back and forth in my brain waged for a mile. At mile 9, I realized that if I quit now, Scotty wouldn't see me run past. What would he think? Quitting is okay? Never. "Be the person you want your child to become," a voice whispered.
So I pressed on.
My mantra was "run the mile you're in" and it was working. By mile 15, I felt like I was back in the game. I clocked an 8:37 mile for that one. Yes! I can do this! Relief flooded through me - I didn't quit. And I'm happy. Finally.
Around mile 17, the marine layer was finally shed and suddenly, the sun came out in full force. It became almost unbearably hot in the span of ten minutes. By mile 18, I was panting and my legs were starting to cramp up. My mind immediately flashed to mile 18 of the Vegas full marathon when those wicked leg cramps attacked in full force, and my heart skipped a beat. I was all alone with 8.2 miles left to go and some serious hills left to climb. Push it, Kim, or you're going to die out here. The faster I run, the faster I'll finish, which means it won't be as hot out. So I pushed.
I reached mile 20 and two things happened at once: my watch said I was still just barely under my time at 3:03:01 AND the 4:00 pacing group passed me. And they were booking it. So essentially, just as I was congratulating myself for getting to this mile marker with an hour left to spare and my sub-4 hour dreams still in place, the pacing group popped that balloon. I tried to run with them for the next mile and simply could not keep up. I watched the sign bob ahead of me and then disappear completely. My heart sank.
Miles 21 and 22 offered their own set of mind f*cks. Someone thought it would be a great idea to have a giant hill on Mile 21 that wove through this park. Just watching the brightly colored runners weave up that hill ahead of me was like a knife through the heart. My legs were killing me and my feet inexplicably were so tender, every step was painful. They had been swollen for the last three days, and despite loosening my shoes to the point they were practically falling off, my feet still felt big and heavy.
And then, right before the mile 22 marker, a small crowd had formed. In the street lay a man. His face was completely purple. Medics had cut his shirt off and attached defibrillators. A woman was on her phone, sobbing, and another man clutched his face while he paced nearby.
My own heart dropped and I choked up. With four point two miles to go, the voice in my head screamed, "THIS IS STUPID," and I listened. This is not worth dying over. The man was clearly in cardiac arrest over something that is nothing but recreation. The heat, the humidity, the hills -- it was too much. I'm a mother and wife before a runner and quite frankly, my family was more important than a sub-4 finish.
Maybe this is me wimping out, I don't know. Maybe I'm making excuses because I wasn't strong or tough enough. But in that moment, I was so over this marathon. I just wanted to be done. And I wanted to finish without needing medical attention.
Miles 23 to the finish were supposed to be all downhill. It did not feel like that. I clocked a 10:55 mile on 24. A woman pushing a baby stroller passed me. The baby looked at me. I ran faster.
I saw my family and Team Abrahms right before mile 26. I smiled, waved, cried, and ran faster. This race had been the complete opposite of Chicago in every way, yet I finished 5 minutes faster. I didn't hit my goal of under 4, but I did set a new PR at 4:09:03.
And quite honestly, I didn't care. 3:09, 4:09, or 5:09 - the only thing that mattered was I was done. And I needed water, salt, and ice stat.
The only redeeming part of the weekend came as I lay on my Mylar blanket under a palm tree, sipping Gatorade and icing my knees. I was crushed, physically and mentally, and trying very hard to not lose it. I was recapping all the bad and good to my mom on the phone when I noticed a guy walk by - not just any guy, but this awesome ultra runner I follow on Instagram. I knew he would be in LA but never thought I'd see him in person. I immediately hung up with my mom (sorry, Mom) and went sprinting - yes, sprinting - after him. I said hi. We took a selfie. It was perfect. (thank you Joshua Holmes!)
So there you have it. I drank the most delicious beer with lunch later that day. We had a gas station dinner near Bear Valley on our way back to Vegas that included a fountain Coke over crushed ice, Advil, and just the right size bag of Skittles to compliment my kettle chips. Heaven.
I'm still processing LA and the weekend. I don't know what's next. I do know I need to take a break and reassess my goals. I need to have some fun. I've become the most boring person I know. As I told Brian, "I'm literally the least fun person I know," and he didn't disagree. There's got to be some balance here, right?
I guess I'll find out.