Orange County (OC) Marathon

January 7, 2007

Orange County (OC) Marathon, January 7, 2007: Link 

  • Place:           299 (out of 1177)  -  Overall results

  • Bib:               # 16236

  • Distance:       26.2 miles / 42 km   

  • Net Time:       4:06:20 

  • Pace:            9:24 minutes per mile

This marathon turned out to be much more brutal than my first one I did in October in Long Beach.

I did not exercise much last week of December and first week of January. It was a holiday season, and it was cold and windy outside, and I was stuffed with all kinds of delicious food, and ... well I just got lazy and careless. Coach-potato mentality is very easy to slide down to :)


Also OC Marathon course was more difficult than Long Beach: it is pretty hilly while Long Beach is quite flat. The weather was fine, although it would have helped if it were less windy and a bit colder.

But none of those factors - not even lack of exercise - failed me as much as my silly race strategy. They say that if your strategy is to run "as hard as you can for as long as you can" the chances are you may not reach the start line, let alone the finish line – and that’s exactly what happened :)


I started a bit late: I was 3 minutes late at the start line and started somewhere at the end of the pack. I signed for the 3:40 pace group and It took me a while to catch them – I got to them only on Harvard Ave, which was the 10th mile of the race. Needless to say that to do it I had to run faster than the rest of the folks from my group for the first 10 miles. 


Actually I even set my new half-marathon personal record during the first half of the race: 

  • Distance:       13.1 miles / 21 km   

  • Net Time:       around 1:43:00 

  • Pace:            7:52 minutes per mile

After I ran the first half of my marathon I started to doubt my ability to keep up at the same pace - or even keep up with my pace group at all.


I hit the wall around mile 13 when we were running up-hill on CA-261 freeway - still having 13.2 more miles to go ahead of me. There is nothing unusual about hitting the wall during marathons – it is something everyone is pretty much prepared for. But it is supposed to happen after mile 18 or 20 – not in the middle of the race!!! When you hit the wall you feel like you do the same effort as before but your pace got twice slower as if you are breaking through something very dense, or as if your main battery got depleted all of a sudden, and you are running on an emergency one providing half less power than the main one. It usually happens within minutes – not gradually – and really feels like hitting some kind of a soft wall.


It was becoming more and more of a challenge for me to keep up with my pace group. They were running a bit faster than I possibly could at that point of time. I was loosing them, then catching up, then loosing them again. After mile 14 I eventually gave up and sadly watched my pace group disappar in the road ahead.


Around mile 16 when I was running through the Hicks Canyon trail - same trail I do during my training runs all the time - I started to feel I could not run anymore - something that never happened to me before. The worst case was slowing down to 11 minutes/mile during some of my training runs. But this time I really hated running as much as I can hate anything at all. The only thing I could think of was falling down on the grass on either side of the trail so that I do not have to move my legs anymore. In addition to that I developed a couple of rather painful blisters on both feet, which bugged me as well.


As the result I ended up walking at 15:30-16 minutes/mile pace. It felt like I collapsed more mentally than physically - I could not make myself run for more then 5-7 minutes at a time not switching back to walking again.


Despite my running misfortunes I was not too depressed about my plight: as strange as it sounds I was still kind of enjoying the race and sunny day painfully moving forward towards the finish line and watching other runners passing by. Another disappointing moment was when another pace team passed by me - it was 4:00 team. Watching their backs I realized that it is unlikely I will reach the finish in under 4 hours, which is a psychological barrier for me (just like 2 hours for half-marathons) - something that separates "poor" from "very poor" performance in my mind.

Some time in the middle of the last mile of the course - mile 26 - I reached another guy from my former pace 3:40 group. He also got left behind and had to walk a lot during the second part of the race. And he was walking again that close to the finish line!

  - "Let's go!" - I shouted to him, and we ran together for a little while.

As I could see the 26th-mile sign on the road (which meant we had only around 0.4-0.3 miles left to the finish run), we hit the bridge above I-5 highway. This bridge was the last little hill of the race, which was all I needed to loose all remaining juice and switch to walking again. 


There was a small group of women next to the 26th mile sign cheering up the runners. I guess I was one of very few that did not speed up at that point. I was just walking along, grimly looking at the ground under my feet.

   -  "Come on!" - I heard them shouting - " It is just around the corner! You are almost there!"

   -  "No way... I am completely fried..."

   -  "You will regret if you do not run there! Go!" 

One of them came over and basically pushed me in the back. It helped. I started running and finished at a pace of around 7:30 minutes a mile with the net time 4:06 (while my target time for the race was 3:40).


When I look back at it I do not feel any disappointed. After all I managed to beat my half-marathon PR, and after that ran one more half-marathon back to back.


Although I was 100% sure when I started to walk after mile 16 that I was done with my marathons and probably running at all, the first thing I did when I reached my PC at home was registration for the LA Marathon in just 2 months from now (March 4).


As our dear governor once said, I will be back!







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