Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The imperfect race.

The marathon is over, and I did... OK. It was an imperfect race, but not a horrible one. I had a great time running it, and it has fueled a couple of new goals for the future.

Let us back up.

I flew into Los Angeles around midnight on Friday, and went straight to bed. I woke up Saturday feeling very fresh. I felt like I got to sleep in, but in reality, I woke up around 7AM PST. I love jet lag. My dad and I left early in the morning to go to the expo to pick up my race bib. The expo was at Dodger Stadium parking lot, where we had to climb several stairs to get to the fair. It was pretty disorganized, and they kept on closing different exit ways, which made us feel trapped in the expo. Nonetheless, my dad had a grand old time getting free snacks and chugging on some free drinks, like vanilla soy milk and Naked Juice. He also bee-lined to get a 2010 Census canvas tote bag to carry around the free shit that they were passed out. I got to score a 2010 Census water bottle and sweat band.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out, which included watching the umpteenth Bring It On movie on E! Channel and walking around South Pasadena to keep my mind busy. I couldn't stand the idea of just sitting around and freaking myself out. I was especially nervous because it was 80 degrees that day. I eventually calmed down, and enjoyed a nice Japanese spaghetti dinner at Spoon House in Gardena with my mama.

Sunday, I woke up at 4AM and did my morning ritual before any run. This includes drinking coffee, going to the bathroom, and eating a snack. I ate an almond butter-smeared banana and chugged some Smart Water. My parents took me to Dodger Stadium around 5AM and dropped me off. They went to meet up with their volunteer squad at mile 23.

We were lead into the stadium, and suddenly, I was standing in the middle of Dodger Stadium field. I looked up and saw the bleachers and got the wonderful buzzing nerve that I felt last year, right before the race started. I took it in for a sec, and then ran to the bathroom, where I peed and peed and peed. That's right. I peed, and then went right back into line, peed, and went back into line and peed. The line was long enough that I was able to pee all three times. I was not about to repeat the same mistake that I did last year, where I had to use the porta-potty right after I started running the first mile.

We were told to gather because the race was going to start, but it was really unclear as to where we were supposed to be, and where we were supposed to stand. Everything that was done at Dodger Stadium was a big fat mess. We started 15 minutes late, and it took an extra 15 minutes to cross the start line. Once we all started running, people started spreading out throughout the parking lot, because there weren't clear markers to show where the boundaries were. When we were supposed to turn, it got pretty cramped, and people were practically stepping on top of each other. Not a great start. On top of that, I started getting side cramps. I started getting those amateur side cramps that 10 year-olds get, when they eat too much and immediately try to do things, like swimming in the pool. I guess I had eaten too little too early, and my stomach started growling around 7AM, which was 45 minutes before the race started. Right before crossing the starting line, I popped in a sugary sport gummy in my mouth to fuel my run. That was the intention. What the sugar actually did was give me a stomach ache immediately after I started running. It wasn't debilitating, but it was a nagging pain that stuck with me for literally half the race. Any time I put something in my stomach, whether it be water, Powerade, or orange slices, it hurt my side. I couldn't not drink anything, though, so I ran through the pain and drank sips of fluid to make sure I wouldn't pass out from dehydration. I had to take it easy when I did, though, so I slowed down and walked a couple of steps each time I did stop, as opposed to break right into a run after drinking:

The cramp really dampened my running experience. The saving grace was the route and the scenery. The route was designed so that the runners could pass by a Los Angeles landmark at each mile. I'm not sure if it was one each mile, but there was a lot to see. We started out in East Los Angeles through Echo Park (which doesn't get the love that it deserves, so I was ecstatic to run through it) straight onto Sunset Blvd. towards Hollywood. We passed by the famous Chinese Grauman Theater, and into West Hollywood, where drag queens were passing out water (which I, of course, accepted). From Hollywood, we ran further west into Beverly Hills (down Rodeo Drive) into Culver City and Westwood, where we ran through the VA facility. After the hills of the VA, it was down to mile 23, where my parents were waiting. I was so happy to see them, and my mom got a great shot of me as I passed by:

After mile 23, it was a slow downhill towards Santa Monica Beach. The air got noticeably crisper and the breeze felt so great. I turned a corner, and saw the ocean, which gave me a sudden surge of energy as I ran passed the 25 mile mark straight to the finish line. As I neared it, I heard a "GO LISA!" from the sideline, and saw my old co-worker Ron cheering. I yelled HI! to him, and sped off to finish strong. I passed by a guy dressed up as Cousin Itt, and ran passed the finish line with a clock time of something past 4hrs 33 minutes. Crossing the finish line gives you the ultimate feeling of release. I felt FINISHED. DONE. SPENT. I got my medal and felt so good:

I turned on my phone to see if my friends were around, and was flooded with text messages from my dear dear friends. Some of them texted me right then to congratulate me, because they were tracking me online and found out that I had finished. They were all saying very sweet things about how great I did, but I didn't even know how well I had done. I saw the clock time, but I knew that wasn't correct. I was literally yelling to myself, "Awww, that's so sweet.... but WHAT WAS MY TIME???" as I read the text messages. (On a side note, I didn't try updating Facebook via phone while running because... I was running. I also saw 3 separate people DROPPING their iPhones while updating, including one that just shattered when it hit the ground.)

I finally found my friends, who drove all the way from the East Side and from Orange County to meet me and watch me finish. I have the best friends ever:

They were sweet enough to drive me back to the SGV, where we had AMAZING Vietnamese food for lunch. I don't care what people say, Los Angeles is several steps above when it comes to Asian food.

On the way to the restaurant, I found out that my time was 4:17:44. It's less than 3 minutes less than my last time. A personal record, but not the personal record I had hoped for. I took it as a good time, though, because I did improve a bit. I swallowed it as an acceptable time, and enjoyed the company that I had. I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my friends, and going out to dinner at a local sushi joint where I got to spend some quality time with old friends. The night was sweetened even more, because I found out that the House had finally voted for the health care reform bill, and I got to talk about the triumph of it with people who cared. All in all, it was one of the best weekends I've had in quite some time.

The race itself was imperfect, like I said before. The logistics were planned poorly, and I faced some hurdles that hindered me during the race. I didn't have as smooth of a run as I had hoped. The race was promoted as a route that would create a lot of PRs because of the fact that it was predominantly downhill. Downhill doesn't necessary mean that it's easy, though, and I learned that I really can't expect anything associated with the word marathon as obstacle-free. The fact that this race was less than what I had wanted it to be makes me want to run another one to improve it. This desire makes me feel like an athlete, which is something I've always wanted to be. I still feel pretty uncomfortable calling myself an athlete, but this race has made take one step forward towards that label.

If anything, this race also showed me how WONDERFUL you all are. The amount of love and support that I felt on Sunday is indescribable. Even if most of you were far far away, I felt so close to all of you through the power of technology. I can't thank you enough. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! This is only the start, though, so I hope you'll stick around throughout my running adventure!

(Thanks for my mom, Naoko, and the marathon photo takers for the pictures!)


leelu said...

You are SO an ATHLETE!!! My goodness girl, you've run 2 marathons!!!!!!!! Athlete, athlete, athlete! If you don't start calling yourself an athlete, I'm going to have to stop calling myself an athlete because if you're not, I definitely am not! :-) You're amazing! HUG!!!!

Jenni said...

Acceptable? I think it is freaking amazing!!! You are an inspiration beyond words.

LouieO said...

"I still feel pretty uncomfortable calling myself an athlete..."

Foo, you're probably the most athletic out of all of us. Claim it. Embrace it. LIVE IT! Congrats!