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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Marathon #79 - L.A. Marathon Recap

This is my  6th marathon of this year and this has got to be the WETTEST marathon I have EVER ran.

I have ran the LA Marathon ever since my first marathon in 2001, so this year was my 11th straight year that I have ran this local race, but this year happened to be the most unforgettable experience I have ever had, no I didnt set a PR, it's because that I ran in the RAIN!!! =-)

Expo - Friday 3-18-2011

I went to the expo on Friday morning as soon as they open since I have to work later that afternoon and I didnt want to drive all the way to the Dodger Stadium Saturday afterwork cuz I heard it will gonna rain on Saturday. So when I got to the Dodger Stadium around 9:30am, there were already a lot of cars parked in the parking lot, I hung out in my car a little while because I knew the expo doesnt open until 10am. Then about 10 mins later, I grabbed a bag of shoes that I wanted to donate and headed to the expo. There were already a bunch of people waiting infront of the entrance getting ready to get in, but we didnt have to wait too long before they let us in.

When I was on my way to the packet pick up, I noticed they have their Honda Official Vehicle display inside the tent, I heard that all the runners name were printed on the car, so I had to go check it out.

All the runners name are printed on one of 2 of their official lead vehicle

The packet pickup located around the back of the expo, there were volunteers directed us where to go,  plus they had the infomation section in the middle of the expo so that was a good touch. The pick up went pretty smooth, since I had an lower number, I was able to go to the first table on the left side once I went inside the tent. I was done in around 10 mins. Since I had a few hours to kill, I decided to check out the rest of the expo, it was a little bigger than last year, but it's small enough that you can see everything in an hour or so. I bumped into a few of my running friends, and one of them is from the internet radio Marathon Show, Joe Taricani. The Marathon Show He is the one who interviews runners during a race, he is always full with energy, love that guy!!!

This image was made up with K-Swiss shoes, how awesome was that!!

I wish these were the mile markers, but there were not.

I hung around the expo until 12:30pm before I had to head back home and get ready for work.

Pre Race Meal

I didnt really feel too hungry so I just went for the Subway's footlong Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich combo with Dr. Pepper. =-) It wasnt everyone typical pre race meal, but I remember I PRed when I ate Subway the night before my RNR Vegas in 2009. So I just wanted to give it a try.

Race Day 3-20-11

I was suppose to wake up at 2:30am so I would drive to Santa Monica to park there and take their shuttle to the start at the Dodger Stadium, but instead I woke up at 3:30am and I figured I would not make it to the 4:00am shuttle bus time, so I just drove straight to the Dodger Stadium and park there instead, figured I would just take the local bus back to the Stadium to  get my car back after I finish.

I arrived at the Dodger Stadium's parking lot around 5am, it was still pretty dark and cold with little sprinkling off and on, the lights from inside the Stadium were all light up, looks like there were a baseball game going on, but it wasnt. I took a little nap in my car before I made my way to the stadium and meet up with my Maniacs friends for the group picture ops. When I was about to go inside the stadium, I noticed alot of the runners were already inside the stadium but were not allowed on to the field like last year did, probably because of the rain, so most of them were just hanging out in their seats to stay away from the rain. I slowly walked from one side of the stadium to the other side of it since that's where our group was suppose to meet up. I could see some runners were lining up for the restrooms, some were stretching themselves on the floor, others just trying to stay warm until the race starts. Just before I was about to exit the stadium, my friends found me and I just hung out with them until the rest of the group show up.

It was about 5:45am, I told my friends that I needed to go check my bag but I will return right after, so I made my way to the gear check area, which was a little further down outside the stadium, it was still dark outside but the light from outside the stadium helped a lot. I dropped my bag off and walked back over to meet back up with my group. By about 6:30am, a lot of us had finally arrived, we chatted up a little, took some pictures together and on our separate ways to our corrals getting ready for the race to starts at 7:25am.

Here is our group right inside the stadium.
 being interviewed by Marathon Show Joe Taricani

I made my way to the Corral B since I signed up for their Sub 4 Corral, I always wanted to start early so I could start running without having to wait for a long time. In my seeded corral, it was more roomier, I have a lot of room to stretch out before the start, unlike other regular corrals where everyone was so close to each other that you have no room to move. I was able to watch the wheelchair division and the female Elites start before the male Elites and the rest of the us starts.

 the wheelchair division start

At about 7:45am, we finally started with a little delayed, the sky was cloudy, looks like there was a storm coming soon any minute.

Here is a pic right after the start, taken from LA Marathon FB page.

This year they changed the course a little bit, instead of the going around the stadium for 1 mile before exiting and heading down to Sunset Blvd, we ran straight toward the exit and headed down to Sunset Blvd immediately. After Mile 1, I could feel it started to drizzle from above, I was hoping that it would stay the same without any serious pouring rain, my arm warmers, my beanie and  my gloves kept me warm the whole time. Then at Mile 2 we entered the famous Dragon Gate in Chinatown, this was the new addition to the course this year, but unlike the Chinatown in Chicago, they could use more spectators, I didnt feel the excitement as I did when I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2009, hopefully next year they will be ready for us.

Entering the Dragon Gate in Chinatown at Mile 2

Then at Mile 4 we had to ran up to this hill right by the Disney Hall, but the Tiko drummers kept us motivated with their beats, very encouraging, gotta love their drums!! Here is a little video of it.

After 4 miles, I could feel the rain was starting to get a little heavier, just a little bit, my feet and socks were starting to get wet already, but that didnt stop me from running and having fun!! =-) Moments later I caught up with my friend Nadia, I recognized her outfit and her visor, so I ran up next to her and we chatted a little bit before I pulled back and let her go cuz she was in her 3:30 pace. At around Mile 8 we ran by the Echo Park Lake, I meet up with this other Maniac from Texas, he happened to  ran the Texas Marathon on New Years Day this year, which I also ran, but I didnt remember seeing  him there. We talked a little bit before I had to slow down a little and wished him good luck since he was going a little faster pace than me. I wasnt going for any PR, I was just out there trying to enjoy myself.

Then about Mile 9 we started to run on the Hollywood Blvd for about 3 miles, I love the Hollywood Blvd, there are just so much to see there, the Kodak Theater, Pantage Theater, Mann's Chinese Theater, Hard Rock Cafe, the Walk of Fame, etc..... I will never get bored running up and down that strip, it's always fun to get the chance to run down the Hollywood Blvd.

At around Mile 14 on Sunset Blvd, I saw a Starbucks on the right side, I was feeling a little cold so I figured I would stopped by and get myself some hot chocolate!!! Hey why not?? Since I said I wasnt going for any PR, I might as well enjoy the race with a hot chocolate. =-) Glad I had $10 in my iFitness belt.

Here is me infront of the Starbucks during the race.

When I came out of the Starbucks I found another Maniac Raye, she is from Atlanta, I caught up to her with my hot chocolate still in my hand!!!! We ran together for a few miles, I told her that  I couldnt keep up with the 3:50 pace group, she asked me if I still wanted to finish around 4 hours, I said I dont think I could make it, maybe 4:15 or 4:30. At one point the wind was blowing from one side to another, first from the left, then from the right, it was tough, but the rain still hasnt stopped, I was wet from head to toes, fortunately it didnt give me any blisters or anything that stop me from finishing the race.

Then around Mile 19, my Half Fanatic friend Henry called out my name from his tent with his group, he was kind enough to offer me hot tea and oranges, they were a great help, I stayed inside their tent just to stay away from the rain a little bit before I headed back out there and continued the race, I was pretty much running and walking at that point.

Then when we got to Rodeo Drive around Mile 20, I saw people were handing out the Coconut Water, I grabbed a cup and drank it down, it tasted pretty good, I dont normally drink coconut water, but at that time, it tasted amazing!! Then a moment later a lady was handing out oranges in a little ziplock bag, each had 2 little oranges in it, I took one of them and thanked her. What a wonderful spectator she was!!

Then at Mile 21, I was walking on the left side when I noticed another Maniac Lori from Vermont on the right side, I quickly made my way to the right and caught up to her, it was always nice to find a familiar face in the crowd to run with, we were both pacing each other for a few miles before I had to take a walking break while she contined on cuz she said she wont start run again if she stops.

Then at about Mile 24, I felt a cramp on my right calves so I just had to take it easy and started to walk, it was STILL raining at that point, no surprise, sometimes when I start to run again the cramps just keep coming, so I just kept walking, I could see the curbs were flooded with rain so I tried to stay away from it as much as I can. Then after Mile 25, I started to run again and I didnt feel any cramping on my calves!! So I was able to run for half a mile before I had to walk again for a little bit. But once I saw the finish line ahead of me, I just put my head down and started running, but not sprinting, toward the finish line. I finished at 4:32.19, a 12 mins faster than last year's, maybe the rain helped me run faster!! =-)

Bumped into my friend Ben at the Finish Line.

I still had to walk about a mile to pick up my bag afterward!!! Even with the mylar blanket, I still feel cold. When I went to the gear pick up, I noticed there werent ANY volunteers helping with the bags!!! All of the runners were helping themselves finding their our own bag!!! That's RIDICULUS!! We were like looking thru dumpster trying to find clothes!! I cant believe a huge marathon event like this cant afford the runners a safer place for their belongings. Even Chicago Marathon with 40,000 runners they have TENTS with runners' bag safely guarded, LA Marathon ONLY had 23,000 runners. What a shame LA!! I am a loyal LA Marathon fan and I really hope they will improve that issue next year.

OK, now for some really FUN details about how I got back to the Dodgers Stadium to get my car back.

Since there wasnt any free shuttle offered back to the start, I had to rely on local transportation, which was the bus in this situation. I had to walk a few blocks to a bus stop in the rain  JUST to take a free shuttle JUST to take us to a stop SO we could WALK a little more IN THE RAIN to take another bus which took me CLOSE to the Stadium, but I STILL have to walk A MILE back up to the Stadium's parking lot to get to my car back!! I was pretty much dead tired when I got to my car, I stayed there for awhile before I started to drive back home.

After all this, I dont really LOVE LA anymore, well maybe just for that day, I just hope they will make some improvement next year.

Next Race............................Bataan Death March, 3-27-2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Red Rock Canyon Marathon Recap

This is my 5th marathon this year and 78th overall.

This one is one of the Calico Racing Series, if you complete 4 of their races in 12 months, you will receive a SLAM, which is a ceramic plaque in a shape of Nevada with all the name of the races you have completed hand printed on it. So far I have completed 2 events, the ET Full Moon Marathon and this one, so I will need 2 more events to get my SLAM.

Since this race was on a Saturday and not too far from Vegas, I was able to still work Friday night till 10pm, then took a couple of hours of sleep and started to drive to Vegas in the middle of the night. I left my house around midnight and got to the Red Rock Casino at around 4:30am to take their shuttle to the start. They said  the last bus leaves at 5:25am so I made sure I got there on time. The bus ride to the start was bout around half an hour, so it was a short ride.

Once we arrived, I made my way to the pick up my bib, shirt and timing chip, since this one does not offer the D-tag. It was really cold in the morning, I would say around between 40's to 50's, I only have a short sleeves shirt, arm warms and gloves cuz I didnt want to wear too much on me cuz it might get warmer later on during the day.

Race started at 6am , the view from where we started was amazing beautiful, I did this same race last year but   they had a different starting point from last year because I heard that they want to switch it every year since it's a out and back course, so the location that we started this time was actually around Mile 14 or so from last year's. Below are the pictures of these beautiful scenic course at Red Rock Canyon.

A little group pic before the start
A quick shot at the start
Early in the morning, nice and cold, my face was freezing.
This was around Mile 3 that we had to run a little out and back section on this dirt road before we got back on the main road.

When I got to Mile 13 at the Visitor Center, I had to run a loop back to this spot before I could run back to the start..
Going back up this long stretch of hill was sure not fun, but sure was a pretty sight.
Beautiful Red Rock Canyon background.
Here is another shot of the beautiful mountain after Mile 17
Two of my favorite volunteers Bobbi and Javier were helping out one of the aid stations on the course.
Here is a little clip of me running this beautiful course huffing and puffing. =-)
This was after Mile 20, I like how the curvy road that I had to run up to.
Mile 25, one more mile to go!!!
I finished in 4:56.24, a very tough BUT very beautiful scenic course no doubt, would love to run this again next year!!! A group pic at the finish line.
This was my post race meal that they offered
Trying to have some fun with the photographer

Overall I really like this course, although it's a PR course, it's definately one of those courses that you just wanted to enjoy the scenery rather than finish the race as fast as you can. I will run again next year.

Next Race.......................L.A. Marathon, 3-20-2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

10th Annual Mercedes Marathon Recap

This is my 4th marathon this year and 77th overall

OK, I  think I am  way overdue to post this race report, I have another one to write after this one, so I better hurry up or I will have another one piling up waiting for me to report.

I didnt plan to run the Mercedes Marathon toward the end of last year, I was planning to run the Donna's Marathon in FL, which lands on the same day as Mercedes Marathon, but I wasnt so sure that I wanted to run that one cuz I noticed their medal isnt too impressive, although all the money from the registration goes toward the breast cancer research, so it was all for good cause. But I still wasnt completely sold. So I went to look for another race on the date and I found Mercedes Marathon, which happened to be their 10th Anniversary, plus their medal looks like the Mercedes logo, and since I dont have the state Alabama to complete my 50 States, I signed up for that race right away.

Thursday - 2-10-11

This was the place I stayed at

I arrived at Birmingham Airport, AL around 7:30pm, picked up my rental car, and headed straight to my hotel. It was used to be a apartment complex but they turned into a hotel property, so all the rooms are pretty spacious with kitchen, microwave and frig, although the furnitures are kind of old, that's fine with me. I stayed in my room for the night  to watched the LAKERS vs Celtics game, what a great game!!

Friday - 2-11-11

I decided to take a trip down to New Orlean, which was about 5 hours drive from Birmingham, I have been to New Orlean before last year for the RNR New Orlean, had a lot of fun there so I just wanted to go there again to revisit. I didnt mind the 5 hours drive because that's a lot shorter than driving from CA!!

Passing thru the state MS on my way to New Orleans

I stopped by  the RNR New Orlean Expo at the convention center after 5 hrs drive, since the race was on the same day as Mercedes Marathon, I was able to pick up some GUs and a pair of neon green gloves  for my race on sunday. The expo was pretty small, I finished it in less than an hour. So I spent the rest of the day and night hanging around Boubon St and the areas around it. I did not leave New Orlean until like 5am in the morning!!! I had an awesome and tiring night in New Orleans.

At the RNR New Orlean Expo

One of the BEST chicken cheese steak on Bourbon St.

View of the Bourbon St. from the balcony of Cat's Meow

Saturday - 2-12-11

After driving 5 hours back from New Orleans at 5am, I finally got back to my room, got rested, showered, then heading back out for the Mercedes Marathon Expo. This one was even smaller than, it was inside the auditorium in downtown Birmingham, but the good thing was they were giving out free gloves!!! I was in and out in about 15 mins, then I saw there were kids selling Girl's Scout Cookies, so I HAD to buy 2 boxes!!

Pre-Race Dinner

A fellow Maniac Phil who was organize the dinner meet up at this little pizza joint called Rocky's nearby, inside you can see a wall filled with 8x10 of different boxers, I am not much of a boxing fan but I think that was very neat.

There were about 20 of us made it to the dinner at Rocky's

This was my carbo load meal, Chicken Fettucini Alfredo, doesnt look like much but that's enough for me.

Got everything lay out for the race in the morning.

Race Day

Got up like around 4:30am, drove to the designated parking lot around 5am, it was a bit cold early in the morning, like around 40s to 50s, I hung around in my car for awhile before I headed to the start area, I didnt want to check any bag since I parked rather close, I could just walk back and change after I finished, so I just  wore my long sleeves from my Surf City Marathon over my Maniac singlet, plus my neon green gloves, and my iFitness belt, and I was ready to go.

The race started at 7:03am, dont know why the extra 3mins, kind of interesting. The Full, the Half, AND the Relay started at the same time so it was kind of congested during the first 3 miles or so, then after that it got thin out a little bit so I was able to find my comfortable pace. I made sure I eat my GU every hour because I did the same thing at RNR New Orleans last year and I PRed, so I want to do the same thing again.  I followed the 4:00 pace group for a few miles, but decide to go a little faster and went out my own pace. The course was a double loop course, so we had to run the same course twice, which was kind of fun because you know what to expect the 2nd time.

It was still pretty chilly in the morning, I kept my long sleeves the whole time, then around Mile 8, there was this nice long  downhill, so I picked up my pace just a little bit. Then at Mile 12 mark, there were these nice people having their own BEER station on the sideline, I didnt take any of them, yet, but on my 2nd loop, I will!! =-)

Beer station at Mile 12/25 mark!!!

I finished the 1 loop in around 1:55, so all I had to do was to do the same loop over again and I could maybe PR!! My last PR was 3:55.45 at the RNR New Orleans, it was my 60th marathon so it was a great way to celebrate my race with a new PR.

I tried to run close to the curb as possible, trying to run the tangent of the course so I could "cut" the course legally. I eat my GUs every top of the hour and I felt really good. Then after Mile 20, I finished around 2:55, I knew I could PR IF I could maintain a 10min pace for the next 10k. I just took it one mile at a time and continued to run. Then after Mile 23, I only had 33 mins to finished the last 3.2 miles, then I knew I had a good chance to PR. Then at Mile 25 marker,  I saw the clock reads 3:40, then I KNEW I will PR, so I stopped at Mile 25 marker and took a pic next to it, plus I took one of the beer that they were serving cuz I want to celebrate my PR early. =-)  I crossed the finished line at 3:50.55!! A 5 mins PR!!!!

One More Mile till PR!!!

Celebrate my PR with my beer inside the auditorium after the race

Here are my splits:

Mile 1 - 8:58     Mile 14 - 8:45
Mile 2 -  8:42    Mile 15 -  8:38
Mile 3 - 8:21     Mile 16 - 8:35
Mile 4 -  8:32    Mile 17 -  8:33
Mile 5 - 8:45     Mile 18 - 8:47
Mile 6 -  8:40    Mile 19 -  8:39
Mile 7 - 8:46     Mile 20 - 10:14
Mile 8 -  8:41    Mile 21 -   9:38
Mile 9 - 8:21     Mile 22 - 8:53
Mile 10- 8:46    Mile 23 -  9:31
Mile11 - 8:30    Mile 24 - 9:20
Mile12 -  8:40   Mile 25 -  9:42
Mile13 - 8:20    Mile 26 - 8:46

Overall I like this marathon just because I got a new PR!!! The voluntteers were awesome!! Post race activities were fun, FREE beer and sandwich inside the Auditorium, plus free massage. The medal looks really cool!! If I live close I would run this every year!!.

Next Race................Red Rock Canyon Marathon 3-5-2011