For the 10th long run of my training quest, a step down week, I chose to run the Rose Bowl Half Marathon in Pasadena, CA. While it was 1 week off the suggested half marathon distance for the LA Marathon according to most (or many) training schedules, I chose it over the “properly dated” LA Half marathon for a few reasons. First, when I was signing up and developing my race / training schedule for 2012 the LA Half was an out and back on Venice Blvd and the Rose Bowl Half was a scenic trailish run through the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. While I grew up mostly in those very same foothills, I had never run in them and I ran the Venice area up to 3 times a week. I also dislike Venice very much both as a thoroughfare and a neighborhood. There are too many lights, not enough turn lanes and it’s a magnet for crime and drugs. People say I’m uptight and that it’s funky. I say fuck people. Venice is just an expensive piece of shit homeless colony and the few cool parts of it are ruined by the seemingly encouraged, if at the very least condoned and I am not okay with any of it. Also, the Rose Bowl Half had a Clydesdales division for men over 200 lbs. I know I’ll never finish well against all these little guys in my age group, so the fact that I could run against other bigs was appealing and made the deal, as if I needed an excuse to not run in Venice.
My stomach was sketchy the whole day before thanks to soda and a touch of nerves. And I had way too much cream in my coffee for breakfast, and then more in my coffee at lunch, and then I had brie and a baguette with salami for dinner because I’m mostly a moron who doesn’t learn from my mistakes. I also went to bed at midnight after drinking a half a bottle of wine. I woke up 5 hours later, still mostly full, but I shoveled in my race-day staple of sausage, peppers, onions, quinoa scrambled in egg whites. I had packed the night before so the morning was smooth. We arrived an hour before the start, just enough time for me to get my packet, warm up, and alleviate any, erm, pressure that may have—I mean take a dump… I sometimes forget who writes this blog… but it turns out that an hour early would just not cut it.
I parked and jogged down to the packet pickup. There were 4 races going off on that day so there were 16 lines. Each one had about 4 people except 1. I’m sure we can all guess which 1 had about 20 because I wouldn’t give half a shit if T-Z had a bunch of unlucky fucks in it that stood around while some high school mouth breather stopped what he was doing to help the windows with the mini-lines solve their bullshit problems. It was obvious that not only was this the slowest window, but it was also over-loaded. If I were a race director I would divide windows by number of entrants, not by how many letters are in the alphabet.
I also had the good fortune to meet the only person in line. She must have been sisters with the only one running a half marathon whom I met later, so it was an honor. She walked up to the next window and said “hi. I’m at the back of the line. Can I just get my stuff without having to wait in the line?” This is an infuriating statement for many reasons. It’s obviously not what she actually said, but I half translated it to get to the theme. I’ll fully translate it and then explain why I hate it now. What she really meant was, “I didn’t plan ahead or make an honest effort to get here on time, and if I had it was ineffective. What I need from you now is special consideration otherwise I will feel slighted. I do not believe I am subject to consequences from my lack of foresight.”
I don’t know if you can tell, but I hate entitlement. I hate people that try and dodge the line, go around the traffic, get theirs in before others, block the way, and any other situation where people knowingly try and avoid the unpleasantness that living in a society can present. If you don’t think you should have to wait, you should have gotten here earlier. This isn’t about racing. This is about any queue anywhere from the airport to Starbucks to a fucking bottleneck going from asphalt to single track trail to a traffic jam on the freeway. Wait. Because everyone else has to wait and the more fucks that try and cheat and skirt the waiting, the more good people have to suffer through this mess. If you were as special as your apparent need to be somewhere you’d have a goddamn helicopter so fuck off. I refuse to ever be complacent about this or anything like it, or even apologize for offending the cheaters, cutters and other swine that refuse to be a part of humanity, this woman included. We’ll get to her sister later.
I ended up having enough time to jog back to the car, peel off my sweats and jog back to the bathroom, but not enough to complete my pit stop before the start making this race the first one I’ve arrived to on time, but the third that I haven’t started on time. I rolled through the finish about 5 minutes after the gun and passed the walkers on the flat street for the first mile before a bottleneck came up and forced us all to walk. All of us walked. Not just some lazy people, but every single person who was there had to walk. This is because we were going from 2 lanes and a sidewalk wide course to a single track trail and there is nothing anyone can do about it aside from getting there before it got crowded – i.e. at the front of the pack.
But hark, what cunt from yonder back of pack breaks up onto the hillside to wave her filth past the rest of the group by walking slightly faster? Ah, another one. Insert previous ranty tangent here, I refuse to waste the calories typing it again. All I can say is I wish I had enough balls to blow a snot rocket at this woman or at least spit near her. Instead, when the course opened up in 50 yards and I passed her 20 yards after that – she was remarkably slow for how impatient she was – I made sure to cut extra close, so she knew she was getting passed with purpose. If karma were real, she would have fallen in the river and screamed for help as people wogged past her shrugging and pointing to their watches, “I have a shot at a PR. Good luck swimming!” Yuck.
The course opened up for a mile or two before another bottleneck, but this one was friendlier and notably asshole free. Except for me. Not me exactly as I am quite polite, but my thoughts are evil and I found myself choosing a line of people’s backs that looked weak enough to be shattered by me in my bowling ball position so that I could get going. Needless to say I didn’t do this, I kept my mouth shut and build my energy so when it opened up I was back to weaving around the slower runners.
I had a lot of fun. This was my first foray into trail running. While seasoned and experienced trail runners may scoff at that notion or qualification of the arroyo trail system / Arroyo Park as trail running, but for me who’s used to training on 100% pavement, this might as well be a safari. It felt like I was playing, not running. I was jumping from rock to rock, hopping puddles, passing people, climbing sticks and logs and fighting to stay out of the rain ruts like some shitty kid who was too fat to have real fun growing up. I kid. I wasn’t fat until high school at which point I was too cool to run. The remarkable thing about the run was the air. It smelled nice. I’m used to running on Santa Monica Blvd and Ocean and Sunset which are all choked with cars and I never noticed how terrible it all smelled until I ran through the arroyo. I will definitely try and include more (some) trails in my runs as I’m a spoiled brat and beach running just isn’t pretty enough.
I started having a tough time when we got back on the road and started running with the 10k crowd as I’m always comparing my pace to others’ and I wasn’t aware that they were 10k’ers so I was feeling really terrible about myself for a couple miles until all the fast ones turned to finish and I had another 5.1 miles to go. And they were going to be 5.1 terrible miles if the first hill held any clue. Since I’ve never run on trails before, I’ve never come across a hiking hill, which is a hill you have to hike up instead of running. It was awesome but steep. After we got to the top some people were walking, but there was a cool tunnel about 50 yards ahead so I ran for it. I like tunnels and at the other end of this one was an aid station. I walk through aid stations or run past them and after the hill we just climbed, this one was a walker.
It was at this point where I realized how far off my Runkeeper app was. Mile 8 was at the bottom of the hill which was about 100 yards behind me and runkeeper was saying I had just crossed mile 8.5. Psychologically I think this hurt the most, as all of a sudden I was behind myself. The pace I got was a lie, the distance I got was a lie, and the only thing I could trust was duration. When I crossed the 9 mile marker on the course it had been an hour and 31mins. To PR I needed to finish in about 30 minutes. It wasn’t going to happen. But this wasn’t a training run, this was a race. I only needed to run 13.1 miles, not a step more, so I said to myself “let’s race,” and took off.
I stopped to walk once, when coming back down the crazy hill. It was precarious and there was a lot of 2 way traffic so I couldn’t pass anyone anyway, even if I weren’t staying safe. Plus I was eating the last bit of my clif bar and I can’t eat right when I’m running hard because I have to close my mouth to chew, so it worked out. At the bottom I took off again. I passed a lady who said “good job!” between pants and that made me run harder. She was cheering for everyone going either direction. It was awesome. It made me smile. She got it. I was chasing a PR and had miscalculated the distance so I was kicking hard, not worried about anyone else except to not run into them.
While runkeeper continued to siphon bum info into my ear (distance: 13.5 miles, pace 8:56) I pushed and pushed and held on and finally when we came into the home stretch I couldn’t kick any harder than I already was, so I dug into the stadium and crossed the finish line (with video proof thanks to my awesome GF) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2pAVRNtTaY&feature=g-upl&context=G212c425AUAAAAAAAAAA and for the record that was as hard as I could go. I even jogged a bit on a downhill leading into the Rose Bowl so I’d have enough juice to finish strong (however weak it may seem, but my form is still decent and cadence is still very close to my target), and that’s how I felt I finished. Despite my GF editorializing, that was a sprint.
I missed a PR by fifteen seconds (official time: 2:03:04) and missed a podium in my weight class by less than 2 minutes and was only 5:35 behind the winner. I finished 4th in my division and 247th overall. It’s fun to throw a weight class into the mix because it lets me race against my peers. I would not describe myself as fat, but I am a big man with extra weight. With my current muscle mass, if I were to drop to 5 percent body fat I’d be a waif at 170lbs. I was down to 179 with nowhere near this amount of muscle 2 years ago and people thought I had an eating disorder. Essentially I do not have, nor will I ever have a pure runner’s body. It does not appeal to me, nor am I willing to put in the work to obtain it, so I know I’ll never win a race of substantial size and I’m okay with that but it IS nice to see how I stack up against other MOUS (men of unusual size).
Statistics aside this race returned my confidence in my nutrition plan, my previous training as well as my ability to summon some extra get up to finish strong. It also hinted at a love for trail running that I will definitely be exploring more. The Rose Bowl Half Marathon also reaffirmed – as most public interactions do – my strong hatred of most people, so there’s that. All in all I give the race a B+ because I feel like I saved too much in the early goings and my exhaustion at the finish line was not a result of a consistent effort as much as it was the last gasp from an extended kick which definitely petered out towards the end. Finally it taught me to look where I’m running unless I enjoy hobbling foot pain from stepping on every single rock in Pasadena, and that I may need bigger shoes and a bit more stack to conquer a proper marathon but that’s a thought that’s been marinating for a few runs now, as my feet have been swelling a bunch with the higher mileage.
Also, I weighed in again on Monday. I stopped mentioning my weight loss efforts after the holidays because the wheels came off the wagon, but I’m back to 214 lbs. and 23.6% body fat and 53.6 of the third thing my scale measures, which is relatively the same as it has been. This week I’m abandoning the donut and chocolate diet that I was crushing last week (hostess devil’s food pop ‘ems are you kidding me?!)(so good) and getting back down with wholesome, purposeful meals and snacks. I’m really looking forward to this weekend as I get to take an 18 mile tour of Back Bay in Newport Beach and then head north to Costa Mesa. 8 weeks until the LA Marathon.