Long Beach Marathon : A (sucky) Lesson in Racing

I’m going to write about what I learned from the carnage of this race before actually recapping it.  I’m still not ready to put the ugly in writing, and instead am trying to listen to the old adage : “the only mistakes are those you do not learn from”

or something like that.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sunday after crossing the finish line I said I wasn’t going to recap the race.  At all.  I was going to pretend it never happened and ignore all inquiries until everyone forgot about it or assumed I didn’t run it at all.

But after a full analysis and major vent session with Emily (and recovering from the mimosas that obviously accompanied) about the let down of the SUB4 That Wasn’t, I realized there are lessons – that either you reading or me-in-the-future – can learn from.

What To Tell Yourself After Telling The World You Were Going to Sub4

And Never Considered Failing… And Then You Do, Bad, And It Sucks.

  • Training
    • I still whole-heartedly believe shortened training plans are a good fit for my (injury-prone) needs.  However if I’m decreasing quantity, I need to increase quality.  I ran (some) of my training runs hard, but know I could have been pushed further, focused better, and gotten more out of them.
      • Lesson : Keep the __W2M, but quit being a pansy during weekday workouts.
  • Race Prep
    • I had a lot going on race week (a work trip to Denver and a sweaty visitor to prepare for) which were good for keeping me away from full-on Taper Crazy mode.  However I never got the chance to get pumped/excited/nervous about the race, because there were all these other big things occupying my thoughts pretty much until the night before.
      • Lesson : Continue inviting strangers from the internet to stay & race with you, but make a conscious effort to devote some time to mentally prep/visualize your race.  Don’t quit job because you won’t be able to afford to race anymore.
  • Morning Of
    • Early Sunday morning was easy and drama free.  Everything behaved – my intestines performed like clockwork and my race braid was perfect on the first try.  Breakfast was delicious and we were on the road right on time.  Well, what I thought was on time.
    • I totally underestimated the traffic.  We cruised into Long Beach easily and then SLAMMED into a wall of cars (not literally) a few miles before the exit.  Then in a moment of braindead panic, I veered off the highway and we drove around the piers trying to get back on track for eternity.  We parked with less than 10 minutes to gun time, sprinted .75 miles (yes, I mapmyrun’d it) to the start.  Only after storming into Auld Dubliner, begging the bartender to let us use the bathrooms, and then shamelessly dropping trou while the male janitor was still inside.
    • We ran into the corrals just as the gun for Wave 1 went off.  I stood in flowing foot traffic for 2 minutes waiting for Garmin to find satellites, attaching my D-tag, and ferociously gnawing through my Snickers.  It was underway before I got the chance to get excited/nervous/pumped about it.  It was mile 9 before I started thinking about the act of running and not the horror movie I’d just put us through.
      • Lesson : Camp out at the start line the night before.  Or let someone less mentally challenged & delusional make the morning-of schedule.  Also, quit thinking you can drive without a GPS.
  • Racing
    • Before anyone chastises me for being a dumbass, I’ll say I put a lot of thought into my race strategy.  I wanted to bank time – which I realize has universally been agreed is not possible.  But other than the fact I don’t like following rules, I thought it was my best hope for a sub4 due to my 1) shortened training and 2) mental toughness to surge the final few miles.
    • I felt great in my 8:50-9:00 pace for 15 miles.  Then the sun came out, and with each mile lapping a little slower and slower, my head lost interest.  By the final miles my hopes at Sub4 were gone, and so were any hopes for a surge.  I said “F IT” and checked out completely.
    • I can’t say for certain which of the factors – fast early miles, weather, or mental weakness – were my downfall, but I know I can work on at least two of them.
      • Lesson : Develop and build a machine to manipulate ideal running conditions for all future races.
  • The Uncontrollables
    • Other than attaching a heat lamp to the treadmill or moving to the equator, I don’t know how you can prepare for the weather.  I fretted the 80/sunny forecast all week, but went into the race with hopes we’d get lucky with a false forecast.  For the Monsoon Marathon I took it in stride thinking, “well I’m here and there’s nothing I can do about it so just run through it” – that didn’t happen for me here.  The sun completely zapped me – physically and mentally.
      • Lesson : Quit being a spoiled little bitch and learn how to deal with adversity.  You have no right to complain about the weather in SoCal, even on race day.
Race recap soon.  At least my scape goats/excuses are out in the open beforehand.  Proceed with caution.

Sarah OUaL

30 thoughts on “Long Beach Marathon : A (sucky) Lesson in Racing

  1. hey. you just got married. you honeymooned. there’s no way i’d be able to train for a marathon during THAT time.

    it’s just your body’s way of ensuring you try, try again. OR MAYBE it’s God’s way of getting you go come race with me.

    just say yes.


  2. I have had a similar experience to you this summer, talking the talk about going sub 4 but I hadn’t done the training to justify it. I know it will happen for me tho. Next time.
    Great post!


  3. Your “morning of” sends me straight into a frenzy. I freak out if I am stuck in traffic or running late. Especially to a race. Hot weather is the death of me in a long distance race, but you still finished, maybe dropped a few f-bombs and flipped off the camera but you still finished and can keep trying for that elusive sub 4 race.


  4. For races in your ‘hood, having someone drop you off is huge. Stressing about parking is no fun, driving is no fun, and getting close to the race start saves your legs. It’s ideal if not mandatory for a PR effort, and it’s not too hard to do if you know how to barter. Just find someone who can deal with an early weekend wakeup and is completely reliable.

    A pacer would have helped you in that last 10k. The marathon is 2 separate races. The first 15-20 is patience and confidence. The last 10k is all about effort, intensity, and ferociousness. Oddly enough, the last 10k is usually slower or at best the same pace as the first 20. But the effort is an order of magnitude greater.


  5. First of all, you let NO ONE down! It was brutal out there and wayyyyyy twisty-turny too. You and I both learned a lot in our unrequited quests for our goal times in this thing they called “Long Beach Marathon and Half-Marathon”. So funny how we both did the immediately after “boo hoo” post followed by the “what I learned” post and are contemplating the actual “recap” post. We WILL hit our goals. WILL.

    I should have had you and Emily stay with me at the Westin… 10 min walk to start. I had two big beds all to my lonesome :( I would have happily shared.


  6. I agree with the other Katie, when you finally reach your goal you are going to feel AWESOME! Learn from this and move on. No going back, just forward! (literally, unless you can build a machine for that too)


  7. Ok. 4:10 is a GREAT time for your first marathon!!! I also was going for 4 hours and ended up with a 4:02 and at the end of the day, you just have to pat yourself on the back and be really proud that you pounded the pavement for 26.2 miles in the 9 min mile range. Not many can run 5 miles at that pace, let alone 26.2. You will do it next time! I promise! I’m running Surf City Marathon to get revenge on my failed sub 4 attempt if you are interested!


  8. o. my. goodness. this is my EXACT story. EXACT. i hoped to go sub-4 at LB this past weekend too. and then my huz (bless his heart) accidentally took my race food (i have a bad tummy too) out of my gear i had packed, so i hoped the free gu wouldn’t hurt me. wrong! i was killing it until like mile 13, then the gu made my tummy cramp, which made me have to run hunched over, which made my back cramp, and then it got hot, and then my head was over it. ugh!

    what’s your plan, what’s your next race? i want to go sub-4 asap! let’s do it! also, let’s forget LB ever happened.


  9. I do the same thing with races. If I know the goal I made for myself isn’t possible anymore, I check out mentally and then I don’t care anymore. It sucks. But weather is always a killer for me. Unless they start races at 4am, they will never be like my training runs.


  10. Not sure if you’ve done LB before. I think the race directors really do folks a disservice by suggesting exiting at Broadway and not any earlier (Anaheim, Pacific Coast Highway). Last year, we had plenty of time, but still ended up sitting on the 710 for a while and getting all nervous about making it to the start. We had enough time, but I didn’t want to go through that this year and got off the 710 early.

    Sorry you didn’t get the sub4. I had a tough race too, but in the end I got through it and learned something. I may be able to bank time in a half, but not a full. Maybe you have all the bad races with less-than-ideal weather out of your system and the stars will align for you to finally meet that goal.


  11. Sarah, you did amazing! You need to give yourself some credit, you completed another marathon chick! Congratulate yourself, pat yourself on a back and know that I am sending you a hug across the states! WAY TO GO CHICA!!!!


  12. The real lesson here is that you need a redo at CIM! I too am going to cross the damn finish line in 4 hours or else! Come keep me company along the hopefully chilly roads from Folsom to Sac Town. I will even invite you to stay with me and my sweaty gals at my dad’s place. It’s got to be an absolute best time, 5-10 sweaty girls all need to poop with only two bathrooms race day morning =) Also, invest in a pair of Brooks Launches ;)
    You did an awesome job and really you ran a freakin’ marathon, most people can’t say that!


  13. Girl, I feel you sweetie! :)

    If we do LB again next year instead of our 4:45 a.m. departure I think it need to be more like 4 a.m.! I had to leave my hubby behind at the parking garage to bank some time for the line at the port-a-potty!

    I think, KNOW you should now run VEGAS!! It’s going to be a fun weekend!! “Go get your sub4 on in VEGAS BABY!” or R&R Arizona! :)

    If you’d like you can borrow my “run less, run faster” book. It has a sub4 training plan if you’d like to try it out! 3 key workouts…speed, tempo, LR.



  14. My favorite lesson you learned is develop a machine to manipulate the weather for ideal running conditions at all races. That would be an amazing invention. :). So, ya, get on that ;)


  15. I think you still had a great race even though you didn’t hit your time goal. Crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles is something you should be proud of regardless of the time on the clock!

    But, the whole feeling rushed and being late to the start line sucks! I did the same thing at the San Jose Half and it messed up my whole run.


  16. You’re still my hero, fellow ‘mallow-loving homey. If you want to feel really good about yourself, fly to Texas, we’ll drink some beer and you can kick my ass at some running. For serious.


  17. Yeah, I think I am fully on board now with the banking time is bunk. It sort of worked for me in Carlsbad, but that’s a half marathon and I pulled back as soon I saw that I was going too fast. I don’t think there was a significantly large difference between first half and second.

    I think, for me, the main reason I need to work on not going out too fast is the mental part. Obviously, if you run the first half faster than goal pace, then second half has to be slower (unless you underestimated your goal pace). But when it happens, the mind is all “oh no! we are slowing down! Failure!” and you are screwed.

    You have to have some serious mental toughness to PR with a positive split.


  18. Pingback: Long Beach Marathon (SUB4ORDIE) : Part 1 « Once Upon a (L)ime

  19. I just found your blog (clearly, I’ve been living under a rock, forgive me) but I’m training for my first marathon (CIM!) and you NEED to do it! It’s nice and cold too!

    I get flustered really easily when my OCD pre-planning doesn’t go according to plan, so maybe the pre-race shenanigans coupled with a long and busy week were already working against you… and the weather was just the icing on the (crappy) cake. I’d still say you ran a pretty damn good race though! (This is coming from someone who has never run a full marathon so bear with me…)

    I HATE running in the heat and that it zaps any mental and physical energy I will ever hope to have. I throw internal hissy fits when it hits 70 degrees when I run (I’m spoiled in SF weather). You’ll get that Sub 4!!


  20. I just started reading your blog and love it! I too had a massive failure of a race recently at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. By massive failure I mean I got injured during training, had a ridiculously stressful 2 weeks leading up to the race with business trips and travel that didn’t leave me any time to actually get excited for the race and get my head in the game. I ended up flying in to San Francisco the night before and was working right up to that, so the race just became something on my calendar for 10/16 – not something I had signed up a year in advance to run and enjoy. I woke up race morning feeling good, but then started to feel sick in my stomach. Turns out I picked up a stomach virus through all of my business travel leading up to the race and ended up spending 3+ hours in the hospital that day instead. I never made it to the start line, let alone the finish line. Consider yourself lucky that you were able to actually get to the race on time and complete the whole thing! If I were you, I’d sign up for another race soon since you’re already in race shape! Who knows… maybe you’ll get your sub-4 this time!


  21. Pingback: Run 2011 (Yes, I Freaking Did) « Once Upon a (L)ime


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s