Monday, May 22, 2006

Palos Verdes Marathon: Race Report


I did it! I finished the Palos Verdes Marathon on Saturday and I am so glad I did. From the very start the experience was a good one. I registered for the race on Friday by going to a local running store for packet pick-up/late registration. Unlike large marathons that give away huge goodie bags, at this one I received: my number, four safety pins, a discount coupon for a sporting goods store and a course map. I found that charming and tried not to worry about whether or not I would need this map to get around the course. Of course there was no need to worry because the course was not only easy to follow, but it was well marked and well supported.

***Quick Fact: The Palos Verdes marathon is the second longest continuously running U.S. marathon behind Boston.***

On race morning, I drove myself to the start. My family was still sleeping, although they had promised to come see me along the course. Parking was easy, which was good because I did not leave myself much time. Before the start of the race I ran into a number of people I knew. Although they were all doing the half, it gave me comfort just to see them. I love that I live in a well populated area, and yet by staying active it can actually feel like a small community.

Anyway, for this race there were no timing chips, but that wasn't a concern. Knowing I would be slow, I seeded myself towards the back of the crowd. However, I think I passed the starting line 2 whole seconds after the gun went off. As you can see from the elevation chart, the first mile is a slight downhill, and then there is a pretty gruelling uphill. My plan was to walk if the hills were too steep, but otherwise to just run the whole thing, until mile 20 when I would probably walk a lot. Unlike other races, I did not take scheduled walk breaks. I had intended to keep my heart rate very low, but with the hills that just wasn't working out so well. However, I did lots of "perceived effort checks," and throughout most of the race I felt very good.


I passed my friend Caroline about five minutes into the marathon. She and a friend of hers were taking walk-breaks every five minutes. Although there were a few miles where we lost each other, for most of the day we played leap frog. They ran faster but I would catch them on their walk breaks. I debated walking with them, but I was more comfortable with my slow running pace.

Around mile 6 I passed a man and we exchanged plesantries about the beautiful day. He then commented that he was checking out the pipes that were running along the road. I made some joke about how they really added to the beautiful scenery, since the rest of the view was of the stunning coastline. He shot back that he was an engineer and designed pipes like these and that "marathons really do have something for everyone." I thought that was pretty funny.

I first saw my family around mile 11 and that was really fun. This course did not have a lot of fans along the way, so it was easy to spot my tall (and handsome) husband and two great sons. I think I will have to keep doing races just because I cannot get enough of hearing them cheer "Go Mommy Go! You're looking great! Good job!" Big Bub refilled my water bottle with gatorade and even ran for about 100 yards with me. Little Bub was nice enough to give me a kiss, but requested no hugs because I was so sweaty. I was able to see them again around mile 13 and then again at 16. They were not able to see me later on the course because their preschool was having a special Saturday class for "Special Misters."

Somewhere around mile 18 I started having a gut-check time. I realized that if I kept my pace steady I could probably break five hours. Although my goal had been to finish between 5:15 and 5:30, I have to admit that I was encouraged by this realization. Part of this was because thus far the marathon had been pretty easy for me. Although the hills were doing a number on my legs, aerobically I felt fine. I was able to chat easily with people around me, and I even made a few phone calls to my family. Although I don't know that running that many miles on this terrain will ever be truly "easy," this was pretty close.

During the big hill past mile 20, I really had to work to keep going. For the first time during the race, I began to question my race day tactics. I worried that I was hurting myself for the RNR Marathon and I hoped that I would be able to recover in time. I specifically thought about Fe-Lady and her warning about too many marathons. Having just talked to my mom around mile 19 (gotta love cell phones), I also kept replaying her last words to me "Don't hurt yourself." Still I trudged on, knowing that I just didn't want to quit running. Something had taken a hold of me. I think that my recent triathlon experience had taught me that I can do a lot and that I just needed to hold steady because things would eventually look up again.

Thankfully, the course turned downhill from mile 23 and I was able to keep going. At mile 25, I calculated that I could actually be under 4:50 if I just pushed it. I have no idea where I got the strength, but I did and I was able to finish in 4:48:17.

As expected, my legs have been pretty sore. I am fairly certain this was due to the hills and not the miles themselves. Although considering my longest run had been 16 miles, maybe it was a combination. I have to say, the swimming and biking must have help me immensely. I know that pre-triathlon, I could have never run this course in that time, especially given my effort level.

For the really anal sorts out there (and if you have read this far, that's probably you!), here are my splits:
1. 10:36
2. 11:02
3. 11:48
4. 11:01
5. 9:37
6. 10:59
7: 33:26 (obviously I missed the signs for the next few miles)
8. see above
9. see above
10. 11:05
11. 10:18
12. 11:01
13. 10:52
14. 11.27
15. 10:53
16. 11:51
17. 10:51
18. 15:32 (um, bad course marking?)
19. 8:41 (see bad course marking above)
20. 11:14
21. 10:55
22. 11:58
24. 11:11
25. 10:20
26. 8:21 (okay, maybe I pushed a little hard here. Who knew I could run so fast?)

Final: 4:48:17
Place Overall: 219/316 (only 316 runners!)
Gender Place: 43/69 (not a lot of females, but the ones there sure were fast)
Division: 7/9

8 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

Woah. Way to not just beat your goal time, but CRUSH your goal time! Very nicely done!

11:40 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

super job! great race report!

4:20 PM  
Blogger Fe-lady said...

Sounds as if you had a great race-congrats on surpassing your expectations! now rest up for the race with your sister.
Reminds me of the "Admission's Day marathons" held in Tucson back in the late 70s early 80s-just a few hundred runners. Most of us knew each other...fun times.
Hey...why won't your hubby support you in an Xterra? It's just a tri with mtn. biking thrown in! No big deal really if one takes it easy on the bike portion!

7:16 PM  
Blogger Fe-lady said...

Sounds as if you had a great race-congrats on surpassing your expectations! now rest up for the race with your sister.
Reminds me of the "Admission's Day marathons" held in Tucson back in the late 70s early 80s-just a few hundred runners. Most of us knew each other...fun times.
Hey...why won't your hubby support you in an Xterra? It's just a tri with mtn. biking thrown in! No big deal really if one takes it easy on the bike portion!

7:16 PM  
Blogger Mojo said...

That's a fantastic time! You must have felt pretty strong even after the Half. It must be great to hear your kids cheer for you, my sister says it's one of her favorite things about racing too.

Great race report and super fast time. Your last mile was smokin!

6:10 AM  
Blogger Siren said...

I really enjoyed this report - as a brand new runner (I've been walkin' my sprint tris) who can just barely keep a pace between 12-11 min miles, these times seemed doable to me, and I love reading race reports that feel real and not like super-fast, crazy fantasies. Great job blowing away your goal!

7:16 AM  
Blogger Bolder said...

wow!

2:43 PM  
Blogger Comm's said...

those are awesome splits. Very respectable me'lady.

9:16 PM  

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