LA Marathon Volunteer Review 2017

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Mile 24 Water Station Volunteers

I’ve run in the LA Marathon 5 times since 2008 either as a full finisher or as a charity relay participant. I finished my first marathon at LA before the course went from the Stadium to Sea, the following year I crossed the finish line with Brent the Monday after we got engaged (it was on Memorial Day that year), in 2014 I qualified for Boston at LA in crazy heat, and I’ve raised money for two great causes with my running BFF at LA. I also watched my baby sister Marta cross her first marathon finish line back in 2013. I screamed like a crazy person watching her run down Ocean Avenue to finish in 3:50, about an hour faster than my first marathon time. As much as I wanted to participate this year, I knew I didn’t want to run the full marathon less than a month before Boston. I also didn’t want to bother friends and family with more fundraising. Instead I signed up to work the water station at one of the toughest miles. Mile 24.

Mile 24 can be brutal even if you were smart about not going out too fast. 24 is WELL into the marathon, but far enough to not be almost there. Before my 7:00 am shift began I ran down the empty course, thinking about the 24,000 runners that would soon take over. I ran past the finish line and thought about who would get the privilege of crossing it first.

Santa Monica police clearing the course

From 7:00 am-8:45 am our big group of volunteers filled hundreds of cups of water and gatorade. Gatorade is not my friend. You can read about why here.


We also set out the elite bottles.

We were ready by 8:45 am and then waited. It was the calm before the storm. Marta ran over to bring me a latte (thank you) and shortly after 9:00 am the elites started passing. It’s unreal watching runners at mile 24 running a sub-5 minute mile pace. Their faces had such focus. 

At first I was super excited when people took water from me. I felt disappointed with myself if they dropped it. Then it NON-STOP for 5 hours straight. I made it a point to look every single person in the eye and tell them they were doing a great job. I know the power of course support. I made sure not tell them they were almost there 🙂 That’s possibly the worst thing you can tell a hurting runner at 24. 

They always say if you’ve lost faith in humanity, go and watch a marathon. So many runners said thank you when they got their water. I was surprised by how many people ran past us and shouted “Thank you to the volunteers” or “We couldn’t do this without you.” I was also so impressed with how many volunteers aren’t runners, have never run a marathon, and have no interest in running a marathon. They’re just good people willing to hold their arm out for 5 hours straight (and seriously there was NO BREAK) and give words of encouragement.

There was one moment that made me tear up. A runner at around the 3:30 pace stopped in front of me grabbed his calves and clearly was cramping. I asked him if he wanted water and him, being the epitome of a nice runner, said “Yes please. Thank you.” Even when in obvious pain. He looked up at me with the saddest eyes and I teared up and didn’t know what to say so I just responded with “You are so strong.” He took off hobbling, reaffirming that you can do anything you set your mind to.

The day before I had the pleasure of meeting Kara Goucher at the expo. Being Cristina I was SO awkward. I don’t really remember what I said. Something about being from Michigan. Being inspired by her. Living in Los Angeles. I’m glad Brent forced me to talk to her.

I also ran into Ed from Minnesota who I crossed the finish line with 2 years ago. The running world is so small. He ran as an elite this year and finished 4th American at 46 years old. Crazy to think we still recognize each other from 2 years ago!

And the Hall family was at the expo as well. Ryan’s definitely bulked up since retirement. No more tiny runner arms. 

I can’t let this be a one time deal. Yesterday was so incredible. I worried I’d be jealous or felt like I missed out, but I got my LA Marathon fix and really really enjoyed being out there more than I imagined I would. My arm is sore today, but I can’t complain. I didn’t race a marathon 🙂

And now back to the work week. School is craziness in the best possible way, hence the lack of blogging. It’s also peak mileage week so it’s work, run, eat, stretch, sleep, repeat. I’ve got 800 Yassos on Wednesday and a 10 tempo on Saturday morning with lots of easy mileage on deck. 1 week until taper time!

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Surf City Half Marathon Race Review 2017

Yesterday Ellen, Peter, and I drove down to Huntington Beach to run the Surf City Half Marathon. Ellen and I ran Surf City three years ago while training for the LA Marathon. It was fun to be back! My goal was to chip away at my half marathon PR, and creep into the 1:23 range. I knew I’d have to maintain a 6:20 average, and I had been doing a bunch of speed work at that pace so I knew it was possible. I didn’t feel nervous leading up to the race, but when the announcer gave us the five minute warning I got those pre-race butterflies in my stomach in anticipation of discomfort. Ellen is coming off an injury scare (SO GLAD SHE’S OK!) so she was going to run the race easy. Easy ended up being 1:40, which is still really fast! Peter was just out for a good time, finishing in the 1:45 range.

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Lately I’ve been working on my mental game. I always wonder if I can dig a little deeper. People ALWAYS tell me I don’t look like I’m working hard. Yesterday I wanted to work on noticing discomfort, accepting it, and digging deeper. I ran the first few miles at about a 6:15 pace. I wanted to go out hard and see if I could hang. Right away I made a friend on the course. We chatted a bit and ran side-by-side for the first 4ish miles. She ended up pulling ahead around the 5 mile mark and finishing 3rd overall female in 1:22. She ran a strong race, and I’m grateful she was there to motivate me.

I stayed in the 6:15-6:20 range until about mile 9 when the miles caught up with my legs. This may sound really weird,but I got a little excited and thought “This is my opportunity to prove to myself that I am gritty!” I tend to run conservative and don’t usually have to dig myself out of a hole. I reminded myself that runners frequently talk themselves out of a funk and told myself that this was my opportunity to fly. I thought about how great it would feel to finish knowing I’d given it my all. I didn’t allow myself to panic when my pace slowed to 6:24, 6:27 and 6:34. I share this because I don’t think runners often share their mental strategies, and we know running is a very mental sport.

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With two miles left I did some calculating and knew if I maintained roughly a 6:30 pace for the remainder of the race I’d PR. I convinced myself I’d be so annoyed if I crossed the line in 1:24, and although my legs were starting to feel like jello I managed to bust out a 6:18 and 6:16 with the final .19 in 5:37. My final time was 1:23:24. 4th overall female out of 5999 women. There’s nothing like the feeling of a PR!

After the race I met up with Peter, Ellen, and ran into Kristy at the post-race tent. Woah the post race tent was AMAZING! Clif Bars for days (love those new nut filled ones), Clif set up a coffee food truck with free lattes. I had the Chocolate Peanut Butter Latte and the Chocolate Hazelnut Latte. Perfect post race recovery 🙂 Ellen and I also didn’t have to wait long for an very thorough post-race massages from Massage Green. Ellen needs to keep those calves stretched out. No more injury scares allowed. I don’t think I can handle training for Boston without her!

We had such a fun time! I think I might need to make this an annual Super Bowl Sunday race. You should too!

Pros:

  • Flat course
  • Start and finish near the Huntington Beach Pier
  • Post race expo was awesome! So many samples, free massages, great energy, delicious lattes!
  • Magnet on the back of the medal
  • Option to get your bib mailed to you for an extra fee
  • Lots of post race food (bananas, protein bars, oranges, lots of water)
  • Love the purple long sleeve shirt

Cons:

  • The course is kinda boring. Pretty much an out and back on PCH. Made it mentally challenging.
  • Long drive from LA (although it wasn’t too bad on a Sunday morning)

From racing back to reality the next day. Here is one of my favorite photos from my scholars from the past week. Nathan passed his Lexia level and his classmates were there to celebrate with him. Love the teamwork.

Have a great week!

Santa-Monica Venice Christmas Run 10K 2016 Race Review

I’m going to be that annoying person who says they’ve been too busy to blog. It’s true though! I have 3 draft blog posts that were never published. I’d start writing but with my computer open I would watch my growing inbox and feel guilty about not responding and not being productive. So yes, I’ve been too busy to blog, but definitely not too busy to run. Running makes me a better principal. Sometimes it clears my mind, and sometimes I use a run to reflect and build an action plan in my mind. Anyways, the annual Santa-Monica Venice Christmas Run was my reason to get back into blogging. This was my 6th year in a row running the race, and I’ve always said it’s my favorite (non-marathon) race. With a 1st place finish out of about 1400 women, even more reason to love the event. Because I’ve got lots to do tonight, my goal is to finish this post in 20 minutes. Here we go. Don’t judge the typos 🙂

Ellen, Anna, and I at the start of the race. FullSizeRender_2.jpg

Yup, I love this race. Hard not to smile with all the Christmas spirit, costumes, and running on the beach. I never go into this race stressed or with a crazy goal. Yes, I always want to PR but that’s mostly because I rarely run 10Ks. I also don’t train specifically for 10Ks, so I can’t be too upset if I don’t PR.

This photo was taken just after the first mile. I was in 3rd place and 1st place was quite a ways ahead of me. Considering I’d just clocked a 6:11 mile, I didn’t think there was much of a chance of working my way up, so I just smiled and thought to myself it would be nice to have a top 3 day. 50086408_race_0.8425811077171016.display.jpg

Yeah, not all of my photos turned out as well…

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The race wasn’t really too eventful. Around mile 1.5/2 I caught 1 and 2, and made it to 1st place. Turns out they started too fast. I ran pretty consistently between 6:18-6:22. This course has a bunch of turn arounds which is annoying for pacing, but great for seeing friends. I got to see Peter, Ellen, Anna, and Bri several times on the course. By mile 4 I knew unless something went terribly wrong I’d win the race. My pace was feeling hard, but not impossible, so I kinda just held it. I didn’t have huge motivation to dig really deep. I felt content and soaked in all the energy from the runners and spectators. My official time was 39:40.FullSizeRender_3.jpg

Finish line smiles.

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I made friends with the second place finisher. Hoping to get together for a run sometime soon! Here we are with our big ole box of chocolates that we got at the awards ceremony.FullSizeRender.jpgAnd here is the original running crew. Ellen and Bri. So many miles spent together 🙂

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Post-race Ellen, Anna (the other Anna) and I went to Gjusta for brunch and Brent got back from after a week away in England that evening.

The next day was a recovery run and some yoga at Athleta in Santa Monica. They gave us gratitude notes and there was a dog in our class. Gotta love LA!

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OK, all out of time. Thinking of running this race next year?

Pros:

  • Flat course
  • SO MUCH CHRISTMAS SPIRIT!
  • Free photos
  • Long sleeve shirts and medals
  • Lots of bathrooms
  • Lots of parking options both free if you’re willing to walk from neighborhoods and lots if you want to be right by the finish or start
  • Beach running
  • Big race with 10,000 runners doing both the 10K and the 5K making for a fun atmosphere

Cons:

  • Turns are kinda annoying in the 10K if you are really trying to go fast, but I personally like seeing the other runners so I think it’s worth it
  • Start and finish about a mile away
  • Less freebies this year 😦