Tuesday, March 11, 2014

RACE REPORT: LA Marathon | A Triumph

LA Marathon was a few days ago, but in my mind - it feels like years.  This was my 3rd year to run this incredible race.  I have never enjoyed a marathon more than this race. 

As you may recall, I registered for LAM during my injury phase.  I never considered not participating in the race.  During the healing of my injury, I was willing to walk LAM, but I was not going to skip it, unless the Dr told me I was unable to do so (as he did with Long Beach Half in October).

Every race, every training mile to regain my strength, was to bring me to LAM.  Not to race or even compete, but to know I was strong enough to carry onward.

I was given the okay by my Doctor to increase my mileage to 25-30 miles right after Surf City. That gave me about 4 weeks of "high" mileage training.  Not quite the mileage I needed to pull off a solid Marathon, but I did the best I could.  I ran hills, lots of hills.  Hoping the miles on those hills would give me an edge to complete LAM.

Going into LAM, I knew I was behind the 8 ball.  I knew my legs were strong enough to give a solid first half, but we all know the race is decided in those final miles, not the first 13.  In my past marathons, I have severe hammie and glute pain beginning around Mile 21.  Not cramping or soreness, but severe P.A.I.N.  No matter how much I have worked out my hammies and glutes, I am plagued with this issue.  I had hoped I could keep it at bay this time.

I traveled with my Running Family, Laura Bowman and Kirk Buckley.  They are like my Mother and Brother.  They have been a constant show of support this past year and have been with me on this long, long journey of injury and post-injury.

We arrived on Friday night, so that Laura could run the LAM 5k the next morning.  (I will write a special blog about that experience, later on in the week).  

While Laura was running her 5k, Kirk and I ran around and around Dodger Stadium for a 3 mile shake out run. I had never done a shake out run the day before a marathon, so I thought - why not! 

My #1 goal was to finish the marathon without any injury.  Any time goals were secondary. As a competitor (with myself) it was going to be exceptionally hard for me not to be obsessed with time. 

After Laura's 5k and breakfast. We headed to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels for the annual blessing of the runners and shoes.  I had never gone and I wanted to.  I grew up Catholic and although I am no longer a member of the church, the traditions still hold a special place in my heart.  It was great to see many non-Catholics there (such as myself)


Priest wearing converse shoes!

Sprinkling of Holy Water onto the shoes and runners

Back to the hotel and prepare for the next day.  We all were loosing an hour, due to daylights savings time, so it was early, early to bed for me.  After a dinner packed with potassium and hydration (vegetables and fruit), I got my outfit read and then it was time to catch the zzzz's.

I got about 5 hours a sleep.  Not bad. 

We drove to the parking place to catch the shuttle and I realized it was the same parking lot that we used for our Running Troops event in September.  It was nice to be able to show Kirk the location of our club's first race.

Onward to the shuttle.  Improvement #1.  We had charter buses vs school buses.  This meant, we had circulated air and unlike last year, it was not a moving sauna. 

We arrived at Dodger Stadium.  This year, I brought a thrift store blanket with me to keep warm.  Glad I did. 

Here is a picture of Kirk and while in the stadium.  We were waiting on our teammate, Laura Gonzalez to join us. 

By the time this picture was taken, Laura informed me she was stuck in traffic.  My heart sunk.  She was suppose to run with me on this 26.2 journey. 

Next message I received from her, she was hoping out of her car and jogging up to Dodger Stadium.  That's about 3 miles - UP HILL.  But, that's Laura. 

Kirk and I made our way to the corrals and they would not let him go into my corral, even though he was in the corral ahead of me.  So, we agreed, that he would pull over at his start and wait for Laura and I.

I get into Corral D (he is in B) and Laura cannot get into my corral, either - she is all the way in the back.  Good grief!  So, I told her that Kirk and I will run on the right side and she can easily catch up with us. 

Lo and behold, I see Kirk coming my way in my corral.  What a sneaky guy!

Met up with fellow teammate, Robert Manon
After the National Anthem and of course Rudy Novotny giving the Running Troops a shout out, we were off.  I was ready to get this trek on the way. 

Laura caught up with us before Mile 1.  Team Super Hero was in place and we were ready.   Just as Laura joined us, my good friend, Andrea Kooiman appeared.  I love this woman, and to see her on the course, was such a blessing to me. I was lucky enough to see her again at Echo Park.  My first test of my legs & my lungs was at the Mile 4 hill.  Yes, I have run bigger hills, but the LA smog can often take a toll on my lungs.  I made it up both Mile 4 and Mile 5 hills.  I felt confident and strong. 

The 3 of us were at a steady pace.  We reached the half way point with a pace to finish 4:05-4:15 that was far faster than I was anticipating, but I was running on feel.  It felt solid and not winded.  Every step of the way, Kirk was monitoring my form and making sure I was hydrating and fueling.  Laura was there to ensure I kept moving and constantly gave me something to laugh and smile about.  What a great team, I was beyond blessed to have such great friends with me.

I believe this is when we were turning the corner onto Sunset Blvd

Around Mile 14, I started to get that ole familiar ache in my hammies.  I didn't think much of it, I thought - it's too soon, I usually don't hurt until Mile 21 or longer. 

By Mile 15, my wheels had come off.   This was going to be a tough 11 miles to go on painful legs.

By Mile 17, my wheels were rolling down the street without me.  

The sun & heat was out and it was rapidly climbing into the 80's with 20% humidity. Any humidity over 5% is too much for this desert dweller. 

I have a long, long, long laundry list of things that went wrong on this race for me.  But, I refuse to dwell on what went wrong for me.  I evaluate, I learned and I know what I need to do to ensure a better marathon in the future.  As Kirk and Laura kept reminding me, I only had a month to really train for this event, I can't expect much.  

I focused on who I dedicated my miles to.  I thought about my husband and how I wish he was here with me. Step by step, Kirk and Laura kept an eagle eye out for me.  Never once was my safety compromised. 

My Plan B was to finish in a sub4:30.  That was not happening.  Around Mile 21, the brain started to turn to mush.  I don't remember much of Miles 21-23, except to ask Kirk to text my husband to let him know I am not finishing as planned because of the heat, but all was fine.

As we reached Brentwood, the heat was even worse. The tree covering we had in previous years was gone.   Legs are in a lot of pain - but Laura and Kirk promised me I would run to that finish.  All I could think of was that Finish Line.  I didn't have a clue what my finish time would be and honestly, didn't matter. I had a goal.  Finish without injury. 

Mile 24 - we were excited to see Michael Blackson and Mark Jones, again. We already saw them at Mile 11, but this time - I really needed their energy.   For a video of their wonderful cheer stations, please click here. 

We turned the corner onto Santa Monica Blvd, and Laura said, "we have a 1/4 mile to go"  I said, "okay, let's run". Well, we jogged.  haha

Turned another corner and there it was, the Finish Line. The object of my obsession since October.  The Finish Line to my post-injury phase.  I squealed and said, "let's GO!"  And my legs took off.  The pain in my legs was gone and I could feel I had Ladybug energy coming in.

As we drew closer, we heard Rudy Novonty giving us a shout out and we gave him back a Running Troops salute.  What better way to come into the Finish than to have people chatting and calling out your name. 

We crossed the finish line in 5:19.  Far from my Plan B goal, but not even my worst marathon time, by a long shot. 

I held onto Laura and Kirk for as long as I could stand and thanked them for everything they did for me.  These two athletes are Boston Qualifiers. They run 3 hour marathons easily.  Because of me, they withstood another 2 hours, in the heat.   I will never forget their kindness and sacrifices they made to ensure I reached that Finish Line. 

I am still waiting on all the MarathonFoto.com photos.  Here is the bootleg copy, so you can see our finish medals.  (I am purchasing the photo gallery package, so I am not stealing this photo from their website.)

*I deserve the Academy Award*  This picture does not display the amount of pain I am in.  However, at this point, I am so happy, I don't think I cared. 

After bananas and water, I headed over to medical to ice up both knees.  They were feeling pretty cranky.  My hammies were shot, Kirk and Laura had to help me walk.  I bet they were wondering when their work with me, would ever end.  

Eventually, I had to sit down, I couldn't move anymore.  Kirk went to find his mom and I sat on the ground.  I took the ice packs from my knees and put them on my hammies.  Took my shoes & socks off and boy, did that feel good.  Those compression socks are not doing me any good.  I think I need to not use compression socks, my feet swell way too much on longer distances. 

Here I am post-race with Ladybugs ball & medal, after I changed into my compression tights, flip flops and race shirt. I felt much better with new clothes on.

We headed back to the aiport and I scarfed on food.  I had way too many bananas at the race (couldn't eat anything else - bagels & clif bars are full of gluten).

As I reflect on this race, I don't think about what went wrong. I think about what I accomplished.  Less than 3 months ago, I took my first running steps - post injury. I struggled to run 3 miles on December 19th and a few days ago, I somehow found the power in my legs to complete a marathon. 

I think about those who held me up (literally) in this journey.  My husband, my kids, my friends, Kirk, Angela, Rudy, Emil, Ray & Katie, Laura Bowman, The Running Troops and so many more.  I think of the sacrifices that many made to make this day happen for me.  From the bottom of a grateful heart, I thank you all.

Lastly, I want to thank Team Super Hero for giving me the opportunity of the lifetime to represent the Masters Elite Team at this race and many more come.  Your unshakeable faith in me, kept me going during those months of pain and rehab. 

What is next?  This week, I am giving my legs the room they need to recoup.  I begin my regular training next week.  I have less than a month to get ready for Hollywood Half Marathon, that is our team home race. 

Long term?  I am re-evaluating my leg strength training routine, in the hopes I can offset the hammie/glute pain that plagues me at each Marathon distance.  I will figure this out.  I must - Boston 2016 is calling my name. 

I send all LAM finishers my congratulations and it was a true honor to share the course with you. See you in 2015! 

(c) C. Ragsdale 2010-13

Run F.A.B. & Boston Strong,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
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