Thursday, October 21, 2010

Running LB: The Race Report...It's about time!

So...race morning came...everybody now...AT THE BUTTCRACK OF DAWN.

As usual, I slept like crap the night before the race and woke up at regular hour intervals, making sure that I didn't oversleep. At about 4:30am, I realized that Walter was awake (which is not so surprising..he often wakes up before the birds), and I turned off the alarm on my iPhone, got out of bed, and started making coffee.

I will be the first to admit that I am not the quietest morning person. At one point Walter suggested that I quiet down and turn off lights so as not to wake up everyone...WTF? Race Rookie... It's my job on these things to make enough noise so that everyone else wakes up...or at least that's what I tell myself.

Anyway, sure enough, within a few minutes, everyone was awake. Walter, politely, left the room so that we all could get dressed. I'm not sure, but I think he may have learned that getting ready for a race is NOT like getting ready for a date. We were all, pretty much ready to go by about 5:30. Left the hotel, found a great parking space a few blocks from the Long Beach Convention Center and made our way to the race.
Here comes the herd...
Betty and I look wide awake!
Since any race report that I've written is not complete until I've made a porta potty report, I'm happy to report that the LB porta-potty's were PLENTIFUL! Once at the race start, we immediately went to the porta potty lines. Let's say that some of us were in - ahem - immediate need. You know, like the coffee finally kicked in. Who knew that the sight of the little blue boxes lined up would make someone so happy.

The ONLY problem with using a porta potties at 6am in October is that it was still pretty dark, and you just never know what you might find "lying around" in a porta potty that didn't quite make it all the way into the hole... Thus, I am also happy to report that my PP was clear.

Of course, there's a whole PP protocol that runners know about, right? If the door lock is green, it's available. Red means occupied. While we were waiting for everyone else to finish their "business" we noticed that there was one PP with "green" showing. One guy, who was still waiting in line, walked up to it and politely opened the door.  Then apologize profusely to whoever was in there and to whoever had forgotten to lock the door. I looked around, didn't see Walter and noted "I'll bet that's Walter in there."

Out walked the green shirt.

Rookie mistake... Always lock the door. Ask Edith, she knows.

Now, isn't that really more than you wanted to know about the porta potties.

Business being done, we had about 45 minutes to stretch, check gear, and relax before the race. We hung out. We stretched. We hung out some more. I tried to text people. ATT service SUCKED!!!
The herd stretches before the race
A vision and a LOT of green
You'd think that since we had so much time before the race, we would have managed to get to our starting wave and to find all our friends.

You'd be wrong. I have no idea what we were doing, but at about 6:45 we decided to get toward the race start. I'd finally got ahold of my bro-in-law. He said he was by the bridge. BTW...Do you know that there must be about 7 different bridges in the greater Long Beach Convention Center area? There are bridges over ponds, over walkways, over freeways.

Nevertheless, we made our way to the start...
Betty's daughter made her a very special California Dreamin' Medal of her very own 
So, we made our way to the start, and this is where things started to get a little crazy. It was PACKED! But we determinedly tried to make our way through the crowd to Wave 4.
Somewhere in the middle of wave 5
Hi Girls...Where's Walter?
So here's the problem. We were a great neon-day-glo-lime-green herd moving forward, and I turned around. Alberta was right behind me, and Walter was behind her. Then I turned around again, and WALTER WAS GONE!

GUILT, GUILT, GUILT! I convinced him to run this thing with me, then I lose him in a sea of people. 

Have I ever mentioned that Walter really hates crowds? Pretty much the start of a big race like this must be one of Dante's levels of hell in his mind. If Walter was leading the way, I'm sure we'd have started at the end of Wave 7....just to avoid the crowd. I true Walter fashion...he decided he'd had enough of the crowd. 
Walter started the race with my brother in law...who sent me this photo.
 As I was having a bit of a minor freak out because I had no effing idea where Walter was, the 4th Wave started and we were off... I just said a little prayer that Walter was somewhere nearby and that I'd spot him at a turnaround in the first few miles, but I had no idea at this point if he was ahead of me, or behind me, or where.


Miles 1-5 - Where's Walter?
So, I turned part of my attention to running. For the first time in a long time, Betty, Elsie, Alberta and I started a race together...but where was Mik? Turns out she decided to do one more turn in the Porta Potty. That's OK, she's speedy and would end up passing us all up anyway. As I previously wrote, my race goal was to have fun, so I decided to try to maintain somewhere between an 11:00 - 11:30 pace for the first few miles, and for the most part this is what I did, but I was stressed. I just kept my eyes peeled for a guy in a white hat, a neon-day-glo-lime-green shirt and black shorts.

You'd be surprised to know how many men in a 1/2 Marathon would match that description. It's more than one. You'll have to trust me on this.

In fact, at one point, I thought I saw Walter about 1/4 mile ahead of me. I figured I could catch him. Alberta and I were running together (aren't we always together at the beginning of these things?), so we picked up the pace. Then at about 1.5 miles in, at the first turn-around, Alberta spotted him, "Hey, there he is!" and it turns out he was about 1/2 mile behind me. He shouted that he'd catch up.

I thought, "don't rush yourself, I'm not hurrying here. We've got A LONG way to go."

Mile 1 - 10:44
Mile 2 - 10:57
Mile 3 - 11:29
Mile 4 - 11:00
Mile 5 - 12:11

Miles 6 - 8 - Are We There Yet?
By about Mile 6, I really had to pee. In fact, I had to pee since the beginning of the race, but by mile 6, I really HAD TO pee. There were Porta Potties on the course, but I don't know if there are ever enough of those. Luckily around mile 6, one of the public restrooms was open, so I stopped in there. Elsie was on her way out! Despite a lack of training, she was being a total rock star.
The Queen Mary and a cruise ship. I wanted to walk right about here, but I'd been telling my students all week that the 8th week of a semester is like the 7th mile of a 1/2 marathon for me. You want to stop and walk, but once you start walking, it's even harder to start, and some times you don' for them, I kept running.
This is also where I started having those conversations and making deals with my various body like:

 "OK Butt...I'm not sure why you're cramping up, but you need to carry me a few more miles here"

 "Hey calves...why don't you relax a bit"

At the 7.5 mile water station, I stopped for a moment to stretch my calves. The concrete running path and the lack of electrolyte beverage at the water stations (if it was there, I didn't see any) was starting to affect me. Then, I heard a familiar voice saying "hey's it going" and it was Walter...shirtless, but still running. Even though he was a sweaty mess, I kissed him and asked how he was doing. He said he was fine, but agreed that the concrete surface was starting to wear on his shins. I was just thrilled for the company. The guilt subsided, but I didn't speed up much.

Mile 6 - 12:33
Mile 7 - 12:04
Mile 8 - 11:50

  Miles 9-13 - Running with Walter
 So finally we ran together. I'd heard from several people that the part of the race that went down the path on the sand was kinda brutal, if for no other reason, it's boring. I had the complete opposite experience. Because Walter showed up, I got this little bit of energy...that and the guy just makes me laugh.

 Coming upon the 9th mile, we were running past some condos. Some guy was on a 4th floor balcony cheering on the runners (the crowds were pretty cool), and offering beer to anyone who wanted one. I think this happens in most races, but I've never seen a runner actually take a beer before.

Then there is Walter, who shouted up to the guy, "yeah, I'll take one." The guy says "you catch it, it's yours!" and he drops it four floors down to Walter who catches it. I made him take pictures...and he even let me take the first drink.
I'll admit, I've had some early morning post-race beers, but never a Mile 9 beer.
Walter...enjoying the moment
THAT moment made me happy for the next two miles. After that? Let's just say it was my typical Mile 11, 12, and 13...slow and painful.

That being said, I kept running anyway. Despite having a Gu at Mile 10, I still had no energy. Walter claimed at Mile 11 that he could use another beer. The last mile was the worst! I was tired and sore. My ass was killing me. Walter put his green shirt back on (I made him promise that he'd wear a shirt for the finish).

 Finally, we got to the final corner and a lovely downhill grade to the finish. We picked up our pace and charged to the finish. I was about to get all emotional about finishing a 1/2 marathon with Walter and how cool it was that we could do this together, and how much I was enjoying the moment, and Walter pulls up and said something like "OH! THAT'S NOT GOOD!"

 Calf Cramp....can you imagine?

He took a couple of ginger-steps and we ran into the finish...
Yep... I am using one of the race photos... 
Unfortunately...we weren't finished.

 Mile 9 - 12:44 (we'll call this "The Beer Mile")
Mile 10 - 11:23
Mile 11 - 11:30
Mile 12 - 11:21
Mile 13 - 13:08
Mile .33 - 9:56 (see...told you it was downhill)

Alice - 2:40
Walter - 2:33

We found Alberta...wandered into the post-race area. Got a bag with a banana, an apple, and a granola bar of some sort. Walter was, of course, wearing clothes that were soaked with sweat (despite the overcast day, it was still pretty humid. In addition, he had sweat out that entire beer). We ran into Elsie. Then Walter tried to get over to the Gear Check Area by going over a pedestrian bridge, and the line to get over the bridge was about 1/4 mile long. I figured we could go around another way, so I suggested to Elsie and Alberta that they find Mik, Kat, and Betty and meet us at the gear check.

Then we got to the Gear Check Area...

What a train-wreck...a cluster-effed train. effing. wreck.

No lines. No organization. A mess.

We waiting in that line for nearly 90 minutes. It was entirely insane. There were a few kids looking for bags at what appeared to be one at a time. The bags were in no order. We inched our way forward. About every two minutes (I am really not exaggerating), a cheer would go up because one person had gotten his/her bag. I think it is a huge testament to the patience and manners and quality of runners that everyone was, for the most part, polite and patient. I mean this is a group of people who'd run anywhere from 2 to 3 hours (as we stood there, we could hear the 4 hour marathon finishers finishing, so I suspect none of them were in line yet).

Mostly, we tried to laugh about the ridiculousness of the situation, but as we neared 60 minutes of wait-time, you could see patience running thin. Walter (who was still in wet clothes) decided that he was going to try another area of the (I hesitate to call it a line. It was more like a crowd) to get his bag. After about 15 minutes, he told me he had it. I told him to go ahead and walk to the car. I'd been getting texts from Mik for awhile wondering when we were going to be there, since THEY were all waiting at the car (with no money, or clothes to change into...GRRRR).

Finally, I was about three back from the front of the line, and I could see that a group of people who lifting up the back of the tent to get at their bags from the back side. As the volunteers (who I felt really bad for...well, I felt bad for the first hour at least) turned around to deal with the people who were sneaking into the back of the tent, people on the front side started to climb over, and go around the tables to get to their bags.


And still...people were mostly polite.

 And I then I had my bag in my sights. As I stepped toward it, one of the volunteers asked ( be honest, he yelled at) me to get back in line. I politely said (ok...I snarled) "look. I see my bag. It's right there. I'm gonna grab it and leave and you'll have one less person and bag to deal with!"'s the biggest tragedy of the day...the 90 minute wait really took the sails out of our post-race celebration. By the time we got back to the hotel it was 12:30...we all showered quickly, got packed, and met down at the bar...the place we went the night before with the really slooooooooow service.

We were starving. No mimosas. But we got some just OK food.
I have no idea why Kat looks so chipper...the rest of us look like zombies.
That the day ended with the gear check debacle is really too bad because the rest of the day, and the weekend, was a lot of fun.

As we drove back to San Diego, I asked Walter if he'd ever do another 1/2 and he said something like "I'd have to be highly motivated..."

But he didn't say no...

As for the me? I think I'm going to take a break from long races for a bit. But if you're still with me (thank you), you know I've written enough. I'll write about next steps, next time.


  1. Your race report was just the kind of reading I needed for this morning before I headed off to work! Glad you found Walter, and how funny that he took the beer!

  2. Sounds like a lot of fun! Love the PP stories. So true that there is always a "rookie" in the crowd!

  3. No mimosas??? How can this be? I remain astonished at the problems so many races have in getting gear organized. It isn't that difficult. Even someone that has NEVER done it before ought to be able to come up with an acceptable solution when told their task is to match up thousands of sweaty tired numbered people with numbered bags as fast as possible.

    Congrats to you and therd on another race well done. And Waltter - DUDE!

  4. I am so glad you were able to finish with Walter! It sounds like you had a good time. You know, the more I think about it, the more your comment to me about the concrete path makes sense. I think it took a LOT out of me and contributed to my race decline.

    Oh... and by the time I got to the bag check, it was PURE mayhem and manners were out the window. We waited in line for at least 45 minutes and then the line disappeared and runners descended into the tent. They were everywhere digging through the bags. Thank GOD I used a different bag than the red one provided. Another runner found it for me. The entire thing was a huge mess. When comparing it to other races (RNR, Surf City, Camp Pendleton) it is hard to believe. I never had to wait in any line in those races.

    Great race report. Congrats to Walter on his first 1/2 and to you for completing another one with less than optimal training. Hope to see you next time.

  5. I have to laugh about no ATT service in LB. It is why my old company (based in LB) left them.

    Sorry about the gear check. Glad you got to run with Walter. That part sounds cool.

  6. So well put- kudos to Walter for being such a great guy....thanks for documenting our adventure so well & mimosas are in our future!

  7. It always cracks me up how so many running bloggers talk about going #1 and #2. Alot!

  8. haha.. conversations with body parts! me too! around mile 12, I started having twitches in my calves, pre-cramping, and the bottom of my right foot was spasming. I remember saying, "ok, I'm sending some relaxation down there now, ok? so just relax, ok? please?" Seemed to work..

  9. Great race report - what a bummer about the gear check though! I hate when these things are not thought through because man do they make a difference. Sounds like they got the portapotties right though which makes a nice change for races. well done for you and walter and I think he'll be back..

  10. I am still with you! And I thought I was the only one that used the term "Buttcrack of dawn"! HEhehehe. Nice job on the race! Love your guys' green shirts!

  11. I'm glad that Walter finally has his own day-glo green shirt!

  12. Man - we must have been walking past each other all day! I camped at the back of wave 4 for the start - but never say the Herd's colors. You passed the finish line 20 minutes ahead of me. And - I wasat bag check when they lifed the back of the tent! Oh well....

    Great to hear you and Walter had such a good time. Don't worry - we'll talk him into another one....

  13. Oh - and if you do this one again in the future - for great post race food just remember - Roscoe's. At the corner of Broadway and Alamitos. Long lines, but *great* chicken and waffles.....

  14. Ha good on him for accepting the beer. At my first half marathon, in one of the residential areas a resident had a table with tiny cups of beer out, I actually saw a few people accept! I know I was too dehydrated for anything with alcohol though.

    Man, too bad about the unorganized bag check, that is ridiculous.