The following commentary should not be read
through to the end by those with weak stomachs, or those about
to eat. Stop around Mile 13 if you are squeamish.
There is a short version and a long version.
Since they are very different in tone, some of you may enjoy reading
both. If you have the time, I recommend reading them both. If
you merely want to get the basic facts as quickly as possible,
stick to the short version.
Preface to both versions: I trained for the marathon with a group
called the L.A. Leggers,
and am a member of the 10 minute per mile pace group. We have
mentors who help keep us on pace, and it's a great group.
And now, without further ado:
The Short Version
Delayed start. Sick of standing here. Oh good, we're off. Hey,
this is a comfortable pace. Wow Taiko drums! Oh cool
A tunnel. Everyone's making noise what fun. Hey
bands! Sometime soon I should see Aaron there he is with
a sign cheering me on. How nice! Hey, my half-marathon time is
really good. I'm just about on target! Wait we've lost
Chuck he says he's slowing down due to the heat. Better
drink more. OK, where the heck is Mile 16, it's getting tiring.
My ITB is bothering me a little. I keep losing the group and catching
up again. I'm starting to feel worse, though. I wonder why? Maybe
I'm getting dehydrated. I really don't want to have any more gels,
though that last one at Mile 12 was plenty. It's getting
really hot too. More water, more Gatorade. Why do I feel so odd?
Mile 19 is coming up; Aaron will be there. Hey Pamela just
dropped off to the porta-potties, and she sounds unhappy. I hope
she is OK. There's Aaron! Yay! OK, my stomach is unhappy. Porta-potty
break, hug and kiss Aaron, walk with Aaron a little way, and I'm
off again. Short break for topical painkiller on my ITB
they have a pain station here. Starting to feel REALLY weird.
Walking more. Passing LACMA. I feel REALLY nauseated. I'd better
pause. I'd better lie down on the sidewalk. Thanks for offering
to help; no I'm fine. Back up and into Hancock Park we go. There's
Pamela! Yes, let's run together, but slowly. Hey there's
Sharon and the 11.5s. OK, Pamela, I'll try to join them. Ooh,
now I feel REALLY bad. I'd better walk. Who's that wait
it's a fellow 10. You have cramps and have slowed down?
Yes, I'd love to walk together. Yeah, I was having some bad nausea.
I'll let you know if I need to stop. Hey there's the Mile
22 sign! Wait, I feel really bad. I'd better sit down. Too late,
there goes my water and Gatorade. OK, off to the side of the road
now. I think I'll lie down. Thanks for the hand. Uh oh, here we
go again. At least this time I wasn't standing in the middle of
the street. Thank goodness I missed myself AND my shoes both times.
No, I can continue. Thanks for stopping with me. I know you said
you wanted an excuse to stop, but... OK, let's keep going. Great
to chat with someone. There are Miles 23, 24, 25... Hey
Chuck, Pamela! How are you guys? Shuffling? Yeah, we'll shuffle
with you. Well, Chuck, my stomach and I aren't too happy. You
think my stomach shut down? That would explain a lot. Oh, thank
goodness we're walking. Another shuffle? No, my stomach didn't
take that one well. Greg, you'll walk with me until the last stretch?
Thank you! OK, have a great sprint Greg. OK, self, you can sprint
the last few hundred yards. In you go! Yes, thank you for taking
off my chip. There's a blanket, and some water. There are Chuck
and Pamela, telling me it was a hard won medal, and I should be
proud. Where's Aaron? There he is. Congratulatory hug. Disappointed
with my time but glad it's over and I'm still OK. There are other
Leggers! Yeah Leggers! You came in an hour slow too? Oh good,
I'm not the only one. Still, WE DID IT!
The Long Version
The start was delayed 28 minutes (according to the paper
we didn't really know exactly, since once the gun went off we
all started forward), so the L.A.
Leggers 10's pace group and I spent a lot of time standing
there among the thousands of people waiting. There were speeches
and the like being made up front, and I presume someone explained
that we were being delayed by a bomb scare, but there were unfortunately
no speakers far back enough for the "average runners,"
who are set up some distance behind the elite runners.
The problem with the delay, in part, was that we were all stuck
standing in the sun and heat for a lot longer than expected, since
we lined up about 45 minutes before the projected start time.
A couple of the 10s and I used the early part of the 45 minutes
to hit the porta-potties, but we still wound up standing around
for over an hour waiting for the start. Another problem with the
delay was that a later start meant more heat, so instead of running
about three hours before noon, we only got two and a half hours
of running before the heat of the day really set in. The predicted
high was 75 degrees Fahrenheit (about 24 degrees Celsius), but
I think between the masses of humanity and the reflection of the
sun's heat from the asphalt there wasn't a cloud in the
sky it was considerably warmer for much of the race.
Anyway, the starting gun finally went off not that we
heard it and the crowd started moving forward. It took
us about five and a half minutes to get to the start line (where
our main mentor, Chuck, let our "10" balloons go) and
then we were off, at a faster pace than I had expected to be able
to manage among the masses. The first mile took us by Disney Hall,
a Frank O. Gehry building that is still under construction, but
the frame is already there and it is really interesting. We turned
the corner and headed down the first of several rather dramatic
hills, past a group playing Taiko very well. Things were rather
packed still, and at some point during the mile, someone in the
crowd, in jostling me, shut my stopwatch off. I looked down a
little before the first mile marker to see that it had only taken
about four minutes to get that far! WHOOPS! Anyway, I started
the stopwatch up again, and a minute or so later took a split
at Mile 1 (a five minute mile! WOW!). (I later adjusted for the
missing time by checking my stopwatch time versus my chip time.)
Miles 2 through 6 were all about the same crowded, easy,
and slightly below pace due to the constraints of the crowd. Somewhere
along Mile 2 we went through a tunnel, which was neat, and which
inspired everyone to cheer just to hear what it sounded like.
During Mile 3, I developed a stitch in my side something
that never happens to me anymore but it disappeared magically
around Mile 6. I always seem to fall into stride at Mile 5 or
6, and this day was no different. I took my first gel a little
after Mile 4, which is a little sooner than I usually do, but
I wanted to be sure I kept my sugar up. Considering how the race
ended, I wonder if that was a mistake.
Miles seven through ten were OK too. I got used to the water/Gatorade
routine, although I would have preferred to walk through the aid
stations until I finished drinking, and perhaps next time I will.
When I hit Mile 11, I started looking for Aaron, who was supposed
to be waiting for me somewhere. Kids were high-fiving us, and
lots of people had water and food for us. It was really encouraging.
One fun thing was that some of the people had hoses running. BOY
does a hose feel good when it hits you as you are running in the
heat! Finally, just at Mile 12, there was Aaron. I waved and smiled
and told him he was wonderful and kept going. Then I hit Mile
13.1 with a GREAT half-marathon time. I was still staying with
the group, and I felt good.
I started to feel a little tired coming up on Mile 15, but kept
it going, and when we hit Mile 16, Pamela (one of the 10s mentors
we have three) reminded me that it would all be familiar
terrain from here on out (some of us ran the last 10 miles of
the course a couple of weeks ago in training). Unfortunately,
I started to feel even wonkier somewhere around this point. What's
more, my ITB got progressively achier (I am nursing a minor ITB
injury), which slowed me down a bit more. Chuck dropped back somewhere
around here, saying the heat was getting to him, and by about
Mile 18, Pamela had dropped off too, for a porta-potty break.
She seemed pretty unhappy, in retrospect.
Somewhere between Mile 16 and 18 my hamstring (right leg
same as the ITB) started to feel a little too tight, but I managed
to keep up with the group for a while longer. At the same time,
I started feeling more and more strange in my stomach not
nausea, but discomfort and I eventually started walking
more and running less. By Mile 19, I was just close enough behind
to see the group, but too far behind to catch up easily. Aaron
was waiting for me at Mile 19, and my stomach was feeling REALLY
weird, so I said hello to Aaron and said I was going to stop for
a porta-potty break, which I did. For those who want to know the
gory details, my intestines had things to do, but my bladder hardly
did, which, again in retrospect, should have told me something.
After my break (Aaron guarded the door, which wouldn't lock properly),
I gave Aaron a big hug, and he walked me a few hundred yards down
the course before I took off again.
Almost immediately after Aaron and I parted ways, I came across
the Salonpas Pain Relief Zone, and got them to put their topical
painkiller on my ITB. It took a while to feel the effects, but
it did help a little. That kept me going until, somewhere between
Miles 20 and 21, I suddenly had the strong sense that I was going
to vomit. I ran over to the side of the road and lay down for
a little bit, turning down an offer for help from a kind passerby,
and got it under control. Then I kept going. As I headed into
the pretty stretch of the course Hancock Park Pamela
called out to me. I think we were both surprised to see each other
so far back. She said she was having stomach problems, and I said
the same. We started running together slowly, until we spotted
Sharon (another Leggers mentor different pace group), at
which point Pamela urged me to join Sharon, and I foolishly did.
I stuck with them for about half a mile, and then the nausea got
so bad that I had to stop running again.
I wandered on my own for a while longer until another Leggers
10, Greg, spotted me and came up to ask how I was doing. I told
him I was managing, but nauseated, and how was he? He said he
was having strange muscle cramps. We decided to walk on slowly
together, and Greg told me to make sure to tell him if I needed
a break he wouldn't mind. Well, I was fine for a bit, and
then when we were finally in sight of the next mile marker, I
suddenly felt my stomach complaining loudly again. I just about
had time to tell Greg I needed to move over to the side of the
road before I actually started vomiting, in the middle of the
street, fortunately missing both my shoes and Greg. After three
or four heaves which consisted entirely of Gatorade and
water and felt completely devoid of stomach acid I felt
better, so we started to walk over to the shady side of the road,
where Greg helped me sit down. I lay down for a moment, but soon
had to vomit again, so sat up for a couple more heaves. By then
I was feeling much better, and was sorry that I hadn't simply
let my stomach have its way back between Miles 20 and 21. Eventually,
we got up and continued walking. Greg encouraged me to drink slowly,
which was easier when walking than when running, and I did get
some more fluid in me.
Greg and I had decided to definitely walk it in after all that
happened, and were doing so, chatting about this and that, until
somewhere near the last mile, when we saw Chuck and Pamela and
a couple of other 10s who were "shuffling it in" with
walk breaks. Chuck mentioned that he had stopped sweating, and
that made me and Greg realize that we had too, which worried us
a bit, but we were too tired to focus on it. We decided to try
a short shuffle with them, but I felt so bad afterwards that I
decided not to join them for the next shuffle, and Greg (who also
didn't want to shuffle) and I dropped behind again. Greg had said
he wanted to sprint in to the finish, so we continued walking
together until we could see the finish line, at which point Greg
took off with my good wishes. I continued to walk until the last
block before the finish, where I decided that I WOULD finish this
race at a run, and ran it in. My clock time was 5:32.48, and my
chip time was 5:27.28, over an hour longer than my goal time of
4:22. But I finished, and I got my medal.
After the half-mile walk back to the hotel, during which I drank
a little more water, Aaron and I got in the car and headed home.
It was only at that point that my stomach really started to settle
down. I didn't urinate again until nearly 10:30 p.m. that night;
I guess my body was pretty messed up.
The following day, a veteran runner I know gave me a likely diagnosis
for my problems during the race: Hyponatremia (severe Sodium depletion
due to loss of salt through sweat). For more information on hyponatremia,
The end result, however, is that I persevered,
and I learned something about how my body reacts to heat. Next marathon,
I will be both hydrated AND loaded with sodium before I hit the
start line. And just eat my dust then, hyponatremia!