At this point it was still a mystery if the rain would continue as it had all day Saturday so we dressed accordingly. There was no traffic on the way there but as we approached the exit it was totally backed up. Luckily it was 5:30 a.m. and we planned to arrive by 6:00 a.m.
We inched up to the parking lot outside the stadium where my dad dropped us off. It was pretty darn cold so I was glad Mike had donated his Charger snuggie for me to wear for warmth. We went into the stadium and Lauren and I went up to the CATS suite which was available to the fundraisers. In the suite we snapped some team pics and marveled at the 3200 runners gathered in the bleachers for Students Run LA.
Since it was after 7:00 and the race started at 7:24 we decided to head down to the start line. Behind the corrals (where they keep the fast people) were pace teams ranging from 8:00 min/mile to 12:00 min/mile. I would have liked to line up with the 12:00 people but it was so packed we just found some space behind them. The mayor and Frank McCourt were introduced then a girl from the Pussycat Dolls sang the national anthem. It was pretty surreal hearing it as an athlete rather than a spectator! As the countdown started I ditched the snuggie (all abandoned clothing would be donated to the homeless) and set my watch. We shuffled along to the start line as they played "I Love LA" over and over.
Once we crossed the start line I was really surprised how the pace picked up. Don't get me wrong, there was still a ton of people and it took a lot of dodging to maintain a running pace, but the crowd also helped keep us from running too fast.
The course was amazing, we ran under the Chinatown gate and were entertained by dragon dancers and before we knew it, my watch said two miles. I was convinced my watch was broken but sure enough, there was the two mile marker!
Shortly after we came upon the first major hill around mile four. We took it with no problem and were cheered on by a huge group playing bongos, congas, and other world percussion instruments. At the top we were greeted by the Disney Concert Hall.
I don't really recall much of the next few miles other than crossing a "speed bump" (tracking equipment) at the 10k mark and knowing that the first text message was going out to my adoring supporters. This was also when we chose to take a walk break to eat a Bonk Breaker and then walked again at the next water station because I haven't mastered the running while drinking concept yet. The next speed bump we crossed was near mile eight which was where Asics had installed a screen showing messages from loved ones. I pointed this out to Sarah just as this came on the screen:
We were so shocked I almost didn't notice that the next message was for me! A video from Mike, his mom, and his dad via FaceTime! I was so overwhelmed I started to cry. I also knew that I would see everyone really soon which was very exciting. I was a little worried when I didn't see them at the cross streets I had designated but just as I started to panic, we saw my neighbor Jack standing outside Del Taco waiting for his wife Andreia. Since Sarah had needed the restroom basically from the start, she took the opportunity while I waited with Jack. I took this time to call my mom to find out where they were and was relieved to find out they were just a bit further down.
When Sarah was done we started running again and Lauren caught up with us! We ran together for a bit then Lauren switched to her walking interval while we kept running. It wasn't long til we saw my mom, aunt, Mike, and his mom. I hugged Mike and my mom while Mike's mom tried to snap a picture but we rushed off knowing we'd see them at mile 16. It was too cold to dump our outer layer at this point, even though the sun had poked through a bit.
We continued down Hollywood Blvd which is not that scenic despite the walk of fame. I did however notice that there is a star between the dashed lane lines in the road. I can't seem to find evidence of these on Google Maps and can't think of adequate search terms, but I'm fairly certain I was not hallucinating this early in the course. Also I saw my dad at mile 10 and tried to slow down a bit so he could snap a picture. This is also where the CATS cheer station was but since they were on the right side and I had told everyone to be on my left, I almost missed them. But how could I miss Trey screaming my name? I saw them just in time to give a wave. One thing I was really looking forward to was Cousin Sal in front of Jimmy Kimmel's studio but he wasn't there and it was actually pretty desolate in that area.
Next we turned down Orange to Sunset Blvd. It was pretty surreal to run down such a major street that I have driven down hundreds of times and thanks to the rain it was so clear you could see the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory! At the half marathon point we walked again to consume fuel. Sarah had been pretty willy nilly eating just about everything that was offered to her while I was much more strict about not eating or drinking anything new. We walked again through a water station to wash down what we had eaten. I forgot to keep an eye out (or maybe I was running too fast) but this was the sign in front of the Laugh Factory:
Next up was a big downhill and then Santa Monica Blvd. Running through this stretch of West Hollywood was amazing, there was so much crowd support! I was surprised all throughout the race at how well supported it was and also loved that because my bib had my name people were cheering for me by name!
The next few miles were a little drab, especially compared to the excitement of West Hollywood but I knew I would see my family at mile 16 so that helped a lot. We decided to shed our outer layer at this point even though we were still hitting some cold pockets. We stopped and drank some coconut water and took pictures before taking off again.
We didn't have long to go before hitting mile 17 where we crossed another speed bump indicating the second Asics screen. This was as we ran down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills which was really fun. We didn't see any more messages this time but there was a ton of spectators in this area and in front of Niketown they were playing that Kanye and Jay Z song that I've heard a million times but for some reason got me really pumped. This was probably the last time on the course that I felt 100%.
At about mile 18 my right arch started to nag me. I've had issues with my arch before so it wasn't a shock but it was frustrating given how far I still had to go. Luckily I knew I had friends and family coming up at miles 19 and 20. We were back on Santa Monica Blvd at this point and across from the Mormon Temple I saw my friend and former coworker Jon holding a sign that said "Wench." Inside joke that we have dragged on for years but was just what I needed to see.
Next up was my family at mile 20: Aunt Liz, Jason, Nichol, Carmen, Ryan, Isabella, and Gavin! I didn't even see the sign I was so happy to see them all but it ended up being the best sign of the race:
Right after this we took a walk break to eat again and as we turned onto Ohio we walked through a water station. I was pretty proud of my nutrition and hydration schedule which did not result in a single bathroom break.
"Only" six miles to go at this point but my foot was really starting to hurt and I knew we still had to go through the VA before we got to the home stretch of San Vicente Blvd. At the entrance to the VA they were serving beer which was not appealing at all. It was pretty hilly through this area but thanks to the monster hills we did in training it really wasn't too bad. We finally made our way onto San Vicente and at mile 22 I saw the Lululemon cheer station and surprisingly my friend Wie with her adorable dog Coco! She actually trotted along with us for a while which made me feel bad for her because she was carrying the dog but I didn't realize it probably wasn't that hard not having just run 22 miles.
Despite the claims, San Vicente is not all downhill. I was prepared for this since we had driven the course but that didn't really make it any easier. By mile 23 my pinky toes were starting to blister and coupled with the arch pain it was like running on knives. Luckily I got another boost when I saw my friend and coworker Erin holding a bright pink sign and shortly after saw my Uncle Chris and Anna!
I really felt like I was dragging and was dying to walk through a water station but knew if I did I probably wouldn't run again so I kept going and Sarah was so great trying to keep me distracted with stories. At mile 24 I saw a huge group that included Mike, his mom, my mom, Aunt Pam, Aunt Liz, Jason, Nichol, Carmen, Ryan, Isabella, Gavin, Mallory and Josh! I was thrilled to see all of them and it really gave me that last boost I needed to finish the race.
The last two miles were pretty tough and felt like I was crawling so I was glad to see that my splits were actually sub-11:00. Once we turned onto Ocean Ave the wind hit us big time. It was pretty bad but the crowd was insane and kept me somewhat distracted. I didn't really bother looking for anyone at this point because there were thousands of spectators so I tried to just keep pressing on. My teammate Melissa caught up to us here and we ran together for a little while before she took off. As we closed in on the finish I started to lose my breath. Even though I had forgotten my inhaler that morning I'm pretty sure it was due to the emotion of the day. As we crossed the finish line I tried to look decent for the photographers but after they were behind us I shed a few tears. My official chip time was 5:14:20 which wasn't the 5 hours I was hoping for but I'm really not as disappointed as I thought I would be.
The moment I started walking I realized my legs were jello. It was a madhouse at the finish line but we made our way to get our medals and some water before trudging a few blocks to the hotel. When we got there we met up with my friends and family and when we went into the room I was shocked to see it had been decorated with 26.2 balloons (the .2 were two halfway blown up balloons), a banner, champagne, chocolate dipped strawberries, and some of my favorite snacks!
If you would like to see my official marathon photos, click here. I'm planning to purchase the digital downloads but don't feel like doing it now so they won't make the recap.
Big thanks to Coach Trey and all the staff at Fleet Feet Encino. Also major thank you to everyone who donated to CATS which you can still do if you haven't had a chance: http://www.crowdrise.com/crystalarrieta And finally thank you to my amazing boyfriend Mike who was so supportive of the massive time suck known as marathon training.
Next up: Ragnar