State #16 in my drive for 25 and first trip to California in nearly 20 years.
Why this race?
-First off, there is plenty to see in and around LA. This one offered me the chance to race on the Pacific Coast as the location was actually in Venice Beach rather than the city of Los Angeles. The course proved to be even more beautiful than I expected. Secondly, I wanted to see the Reagan presidential library as well as to get a quick tour of Malibu and Beverly Hills. Last but not least, it gave me the opportunity to catch up with a childhood friend named Sarah, who was very good to me during a rough season of my life.
Although I came into the race with 4 straight "winning" weeks, each one contained a hiccup and the last of which was quite scary. At my best, I had 2 long runs that indicated that my condition was comparable to last year when I scored the 1:28 in Texas. On the morning of my flight 2 days before the race, I was awful. A single mile in 7:30 actually required effort and my IT band was abnormally sore. It turned out that I was getting more and more sensitive to copper and would have to cut out my normal morning protein bar because it contained too much of it. I suppose that makes sense. As I get closer to balance, I will not be able to tolerate as much copper because the toxicity over-rides the fast oxidation. Vitamin C is effective in combating the excess but too much of that stuff can cause diarrhea. I began feeling better as I approached LA and by the next morning, I believed that I could do well the following day.
Left Birmingham by mid-afternoon and after a layover in cold Denver, I arrived only a few minutes behind schedule. I called Sarah to confirm lunch after the race and headed to my hotel in Marina del Rey. The next morning, I had to go to the expo which was located about 20 minutes south of town. I feared the Freeway so I would have drive through a bit of South Central. Fortunately, I got off Rosecrans via Crenshaw Blvd before I got to Compton, which is notorious for gangs and crime. Still, I saw plenty of businesses and homes with bars on the windows. The expo was in LA's version of the Trak Shak in Torrance (near Long Beach). From there, I took the Freeway up to Santa Monica where I picked up some pizza for lunch. It turned out that the Freeway wasn't so bad after all. Next, I picked up the Pacific Coast Hwy up to Malibu, where I was treated to ocean views on the west and mountains to the east. From there, it was US-101 up to Simi Valley for the Reagan library. Again, the scenery was amazing. That is worth seeing for anyone interested in history regardless of political ideology. I've already seen Carter's and Bush 41's and plan on seeing Clinton's and W's within the next few years.
After the race, it was an enjoyable lunch with Sarah and her husband followed by a drive on Santa Monica Blvd to Hollywood and back through Beverly Hills via Sunset Blvd. I got in a quick junk run the next morning and the flight back was also relatively smooth.
Course was a 3 out of 10 in terms of difficulty and 10 in terms of scenery. It began on Venice Beach's boardwalk for about a mile then turned downhill into a residential area. It was a little congested at the start but I lined up close enough to the front that it did not slow me down significantly though I lost a few precious seconds. At the end of Mile 3, we turned onto a bike trail overlooking the marina, which eventually led us back to the beach. I set out to maintain a steady 6:45-6:50 pace, which felt comfortable. My legs were fine but I was beginning to get some cramps in my stomach. Please no mess! Please let me hold it to the finish!
6:40 (6:40) little fast
6:37 (13:17) mostly downhill but need to slow down
6:50 (20:07) better
6:46 (26:53) solid
From Mile 5-8, we were running on a paved path in the middle of the sand right next to the Pacific Ocean. As you can imagine, it was beautiful but the stomach cramps were gradually getting worse. By the end of Mile 5, it was becoming clear that there was no way that I could hold it to line and it was already beginning to slow me down. Fortunately, there were 3 portajohns just after Mile 6 and I jumped in without hesitation. At this point, I was more concerned about that issue than my finish time but I tried to make it as quick as possible. I stopped my watch because I wanted to know what I would have done without the stop. I estimate that I lost about a minute and that turned out to be almost exactly right. I had been near PR pace and still felt good except for my stomach. A PR chance was gone but I still believed that I had a chance of a sub-90. When I got going again, I managed to pick up the pace a bit. Near the end of Mile 8, I stopped for some Gatorade, which proved to be a bad call because it jacked my stomach up again.
6:44 (33:37) strong, slightly down
6:52 (40:29) cramps, had to stop.
6:46 (47:15) feeling good again
6:56 (54:11) drink stop
I figured that the official time was around 56 minutes for 8.1 miles though my watch read just under 55. I needed only a 7 minute pace to get an unofficial sub-90 and 6:48ish to make it officially. At this point, the GPS cut off and the mile markers were inconsistent so I'll just estimate the splits. The only significant hill was a Mile long climb of about 70-80 ft. in Mile 9 in which we came off the beach and back onto the road. I was warned of it and I seemed to hold the pace pretty well. I passed 2 immediately and did not get passed myself. Survive that and you're in pretty good shape. The last 5K is mostly a gradual decline with a steeper section in the last half mile. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. The ocean was right below us and there were some mountains in the distance. Unfortunately, the stomach cramps were starting again by Mile 11 and would get gradually worse as I approached the finish. Such a shame. I can't say that I felt great at this point of the race. Nobody does. When you're trying to hold in a #2, you really cannot dig deep and push the pace. While I can't say that I would have accelerated in the last 5K, my legs had enough juice to at least hold the 6:50ish pace especially going slightly downhill. As I came down the final hill toward the finish, I knew that I could not hold it more than another mile or 2 but fortunately, I would not have to. With the finish line in view, I managed to pick it up again to secure the unofficial sub-90. Clock time was 1:31 flat and the chip time was 1:30:53 (6:56 pace). I was only mildly sore and clearly left time on the course.
7:10 (61:21) uphill
6:45 (68:06) back down
6:50 (74:56) still fairly comfy
7:00 (81:56) cramps
7:16 (89:12) steeper downhill, more cramps
Because of my sprint to the line, I had to sit down to wait for the cramps to pass before I could walk to the portajohns near the finish. I really could not enjoy the post-race party because I was not sure if I could hold any food so I just took the bus back to the hotel without further incident.
Despite the stomach cramps, this was a very enjoyable trip overall and an excellent destination race. Could I have PR'd? Probably not but I was good for a low-1:29 on a course that was slightly more difficult than Texas. I may only have one official sub-90 but in my mind, I have 2 unofficially. As for the medical issues, I do not require too much vitamin C and as long as I can take the Thym-Adren, I believe that this will work out. If I hit another roadblock, this is about as good as it will get minus the cramps. I'm plenty satisfied with my 1:28 PR but I honestly believe that I am capable of 1:25 even with similar training. If I can do that, it will generate more interest in my story and silence all the critics.