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!

Millions of Miles March

43 days until the Boston Marathon. 28 days until the taper. March = Miles. Marathon training is all about trashing your legs followed by treating them like royalty before the race. This was a great week of training. I went into my long run with tired legs after lots of easy mileage and some purposeful speed. Being tired going into a 20+ mile run is the way you want to train for a full.

I’ve had two confidence boost runs lately. Last weekend I was getting all inspired from watching the Tokyo Marathon. Went out for a faster 4 miler after a failed tempo a few days prior.

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And on Wednesday this run was quite the confidence boost. Love treadmill running for teaching a pace. Just punch the number in and go. Did this on Wednesday before Ash Wednesday Mass.

I haven’t been religious about following a specific training plan. I’ve used the BAA Plan as a guide, but have focused lots of easy milage with race pace practice. For me it’s important to practice and feel comfortable with a specific pace. Convincing your mind you’re ready for the challenge is half the battle, right?

At EQ3 we had a different kind of marathon… a reading marathon. We dressed up in workout gear and read for 26.2 uninterrupted minutes. Those headbands were well worth the investment. The kids were too darn cute! Hoping to build up their stamina to when we used to read for 2 hours with our fifth graders.

That same day I multi-tasked with a baby at my desk. One of our families got into a crash right outside of school. Thank goodness everyone was OK. Baby Elijah and I hung out in my office while Dad sorted everything out outside. And yes, the best overnight oats are those made in a nearly empty almond butter jar. 

Yesterday Brent and I went to dinner in Hermosa Beach, so we took a little La La Land Tour. 

Dinner was at Baran’s 2239. We had the Romanesco cauliflower, foie gras, sweet and spicy chicken, and king crab gnocchi. Los Angeles Magazine highlighted the restaurant as one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016. A bit on the pricey side, but we were not disappointed. 

The Tripel is still my #1 love in LA. And Brooke Williamson, the brains behind the restaurant just won Top Chef this past Thursday. I knew I had good taste 🙂 Cecilia, Alaina, and I stayed up past our bedtime to watch the finale.top-chef-7.jpgNow it’s time for a few miles up in Beverly Hills. Need to take advantage of hills and get ready for Heartbreak. Ahh! So excited for Boston!12wemarath_photo6[1].jpg

How Bad Do You Want It?

Los Angeles is beautiful, even on a cloudy day. After yesterday’s wet 23 miler I was craving an easy no plan run. I took off from my apartment with my book and went exploring.

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 6.17.18 PM.pngI’m about an hour from finishing How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle by Matt Fitzgerald. Emily recommended it last week on our long run. We all know the best athletic performances come from the mind, not the body, and Matt Fitzgerald helps us understand how we can improve our mental fitness. He defines mental fitness as “a collection of coping skills—behaviors, thoughts and emotions—that help athletes master the discomfort and stress of the athletic experience, mainly by increasing tolerance for perceived effort and by reducing the amount of effort that is perceived at any given intensity of exercise.” He does this by sharing engaging race stories from elite athletes. It’s a great read, and can help you with your mental toughness whether you’re a runner or not.

512BGGaYFVVL._SX331_BO1204203200_.jpgHere are my top 5 takeaways. I could list hundreds, but I’ll stick to 5 🙂 

  1. You’ll aid your performance if you prepare yourself to feel terrible during a race. The flow state, that amazing feeling when you’re working hard but it feels maintainable, is real and often occurs when you accept that the experience is going to be painful.
  2. You’re better off training with a group and competing around a crowd. Thank you audience effect!
  3. Time goals are the way to go. Apparently my chipping away at time vs. going for massive PRs works! You’ll feel more confident in your goal because you feel more certain and that translates to a higher level of effort.
  4. If you obsess over a goal you risk choking. Stay in the moment and focus on the specific task at hand.
  5. Your attitude in life is the attitude you bring to your race. The happiest runners who continued racing beyond their 30s are all joyful and positive people. Think Deena and Meb. No coincidence.

This week was a heavy training week. I’ll definitely think about this week’s 6:15 paced mile repeats and the 10 mile run with 5 at a 6:40 pace when I’m charging up Heartbreak Hill in April. Confidence in training brings confidence on race day.

In my non-running world I’ve been trying to stay dry.

On Friday Cecilia, Alaina, and I braved the storm and went to Chef Tech Cooking School in Long Beach to learn how to make Chinese Takeout. We hit up Beachwood Blendery before class. 

Ellen gifted me a Green Chef box. So far we’ve made the Asian Rainbow Salad and the Patatas Bravas. I was worried they’d taste a little too healthy, but they were both filling and flavorful. Thanks Ellen!

And tomorrow is another day of rest. Back to the grind on Tuesday.