Thought for the Day

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Long Beach Marathon 2003

I got up at 5:30 plenty of time to kill. I was naively thankful for the 8:15 start time. I took a shower and got some coffee, a doughnut, and an English muffin at the complementary continental breakfast in the motel lobby.
I planned to park in the convention center parking lot near the start. Even though it was $8, I thought it would be worth it to avoid hunting for a space, and it would be an easy walk to my car after the race. By the time I got downtown, however, it was doubtful that plan was going to work. Traffic toward the convention center was at a standstill, and I could see a lot of runners walking to the beach. I turned into the first parking lot I saw, which turned out to be $11, and started walking. On the way, I made a quick stop in the lobby of the Hilton to look for a restroom. They had put out "Cleaning" signs at the restroom entrances to try to fool runners into passing by, but it wasn't working.
When I made it down to the start the 5K was just starting. It was already getting warm. We were on a street with a view of the harbor in one direction and the beach inthe other. A chorus sang America the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner. Then they started the wheel chair competitors. Shortly after that, we had several late wheel chair arrivals come barreling through the crowd.
The MC told us about all of the elite runners, their names, where they were from, their PRs. I usually couldn't care less about the people up in the front.
The start was crowded, but not as bad as some I've been to. I was able to run my own pace, but as usual started a little fast. I was hoping for a flat course, but there were two steep bridges in the first three miles. I was thankful that I had my sunglasses on.
Although the forecast had been partly cloudy, it was clear and bright out, and it was already heating up. My blood sugar was 180 when I checked it at 5 miles, which is a little high, but fine to start with.
I didn't realize how hot it was until we approached the 8 mile mark, on a bike path on the beach, and there was an EMT crew loading a Kenyan into an ambulance. Is it evil to let the thought cross my mind that at least I was going to beat one Kenyan? Anyway, I felt a little guilty about it.
Shortly after passing mile nine, I felt a familiar tugging sting in my abdomen. It was my infusion set yanking out. I had intended to double tape it that morning, but somehow had forgotten. This probably hurt me as much as anything. I was running pretty well on my pace until then. Then I lost about two minutes, cursing and fiddling with it, trying to keep it partly in while uncurling the adhesive patch and trying to get it to stick. That was futile. I thought about my options while cursing some more, and decided I would go ahead and finish.
It's not such a big deal. I know diabetic runners who disconnect from their pumps when they go for a run. It's just not what I usually do.
I turn my pump down to a basal rate of 0.2 units per hour, so for 3 hours, being hooked up or not would only amount to a difference of about 0.6 units. I use about 1 unit per 15 grams of carbohydrates, about one slice of bread.
So it's not a big deal, but it meant that I couldn't eat any power gel and my blood sugar remained a little high through the whole race.
Having a high blood sugar increases dehydration, and drinking only water and not getting any electrolytes also doesn't help. So I know I was more affected by the heat than I would have been.
It was only after mile 10 in southern Long Beach that this course started to get really hilly. There were no big hills, just a lot of them. It was a much tougher course than I anticipated.
Projected high for the day was 75, but it got to 85. I'm sure it was in the 80s during the race.
As you may have noticed if you were checking the mileage mongers, I did enough long runs, but not enough mileage during the weekdays, so I probably didn't have it in me to run a 3:30 anyway. But on that day on that course after my infusion set pulled out, I was pretty well screwed.
Anyway, I struggled through, running and walking. Sometimes I would put in another effort to keep going, to keep running or to run faster, at least for a mile, then I'd get discouraged and drop my expectations to simply finishing again.
Near the finish I came across two guys I had passed and who had passed me several times during the day. They were suffering pretty near as badly as I was, but I was coming from behind and passing. One of them went with me and the other encouraged his friend to get me.
He just smiled and said it's not about competition any more. I smiled back and said if it made him feel better he should do it. We both sped up. After a few yards I was pulling away from him. Someone at the side said it was 200 yards, so I sped up a little more.
The announcer was calling out names as runners finished. He suddenly sounded a little more excited and said, "Uh, oh! Here comes a strong finisher." I smiled. It struck me as funny. Just then a woman flew past me on my right. That was funnier. I eased up a little more and the runner I had passed a few yards back came sprinting past and caught the woman right about at the finish line.
I finished, got the chip cut off my shoe, and gladly took my medal.
Then I had to immediately hurry back to my car, probably more than a mile away uphill, to get another infusion set in.
I looked up some news articles about the Long Beach Marathon yesterday. Over 300 people sought medical attention at the race. Two of the elite runners dropped out before mile 8, the Kenyan I saw, who was reportedly spitting up blood, and a Russian. Another Kenyan dropped out at mile 22. Joseph Kamau, who had won this race the previous two years and had said he was in 2:13 shape before the race, won in just under 2:22, and he was six minutes ahead of the nearest competition. Near mile 25 he snatched a Gatorade bottle from a half marathon runner as he was passing. He ran a few yards ahead, stopped and took a few gulps before continuing on. He said that on a day like that, water is like nothing, and he needs Gatorade.
The sports drink they had at the aid stations was Ultima. That probably contributed to the problems at the race, because a lot of runners won't drink it.
The rest of the day I could tell I was dehydrated. I was thirsty, and my pee, which should be the color of a pilsner, was like an amber bock, or iced tea.
I'm feeling fine now. Just ordinary soreness.
Anyway, that's 20 marathons in under 5 years. And a good learning experience. I've decided take care of it in Tucson on 12/7.

Time Split
1: 00:07:24 07:24
2: 00:15:12 07:48
3: 00:22:55 07:43
4: 00:30:52 07:58
5: 00:38:33 07:40
6: 00:46:19 07:46
7: 00:54:07 07:48
8: 01:02:02 07:55
9: 01:09:54 07:53
10: 01:18:10 09:02
11: 01:27:28 08:32
12: 01:35:23 07:55
13: 01:44:08 08:44
14: 01:53:14 09:06
15: 02:02:37 09:23
16: 02:12:23 09:47
17: 02:22:37 10:14
18: 02:33:18 10:49
19: 02:45:39 12:13
20: 03:00:22 14:43
21: 03:12:49 12:27
22: 03:22:18 09:29
23: 03:40:38 18:20
24: 03:53:45 13:07
25: 04:08:08 14:38
26.2: 04:21:32 13:24

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