Sunday, March 8, 2020

Los Angeles Marathon 2020

As I suspected, I got a little ahead of myself with the predictions I made in my last blog entry.  While I thought there was a chance I could better times I set back in 2010 and 2013 at this year's LA Marathon, even ideal conditions proved to not be enough for me to even come close to equaling those earlier feats.  I am still very happy with how I ran my race and the experience of running from the Stadium to the Sea has not gotten old, but I was a little surprised that I didn't finish faster.

I would describe the weather as not only ideal, but also unexpectedly postcard perfect.  I made mental photographs as I watched the early morning sun pass behind the fountains of Echo Park, first spotted a practically glowing Hollywood sign (followed soon after by the Griffith Park Observatory) from Sunset Blvd, noticed clouds that looked like Starship Enterprise flying behind buildings in Hollywood, and when I finally saw the finish line framed by palm trees and the rich blue sky.  The crisp morning air was likely as clean as it ever gets in LA (due to overnight rain), clouds were never overhead (the only rain I experienced this morning was brief, during my drive to catch the shuttle from Santa Monica), the breeze was light (though I was very aware of a slight headwind during my San Vicente descent).  The only thing that disturbed this idyllic atmosphere was the presence of numerous homeless encampments...I cannot recall seeing any tents along the course in past years, but there were many throughout and west of downtown.

Normally I would have been upset that the marine layer / morning fog was completely non-existent, but, due to the early start, much of the course remained in shadow and heat was never a factor even when running in direct sunlight (I am pretty sure I finished the race before the temperature hit 60).    The temperature range nearly matched what I enjoyed under overcast skies in 2013.

 And I was feeling as good as ever from the moment I woke up and through most of the race.  So why did I not finish faster?

I only started to really feel the miles as the course stayed on Sepulveda a bit longer than on previous races, turning on Wilshire to get around the VA Hospital rather than cutting directly through it on Dowden Drive and through the Veterans Park.  Either way the 21st and 22nd miles continue to be the wall of the LA Marathon...the last significant incline in the race...and its effect lingers until I reach the downhill section after the mile 23 marker (around the intersection of San Vicente and 26th Street).  I was affected a bit more this year by it, but I probably would have slowed down just as much even if the course had not changed.  As is often the case on longer runs, my right ankle started to feel raw...and my right nipple was screaming for vaseline, partly because the right pin from my bib would make contact from time to time.

Perhaps my Garmin Fenix 5 led me to believe I was running faster than I actually was...because my watch displayed a faster pace based on distances I was hitting well ahead of each mile marker.  According to my GPS data, I traversed 26.2 miles in 3:42:00...which would have made this my 3rd fastest marathon...but I still had nearly a half mile to go.  When I crossed the finish line, my watch data suggests I ran 26.6 miles at an average of 8:29 per mile.  At that pace, I would have finished 26.2 miles in 3:42:16...which would still been my 3rd fastest marathon.  Note that my Garmin data from 2013 indicated I traversed 26.4 miles from start to finish, but my training analysis of the race was based on the official average of 8:31 per mile and not my Garmin data from that race (which would have implied I needed to beat 8:28 per mile).  In other words, I may have better prepared myself if I just looked at my Garmin data (though 2013's would have been based on a different watch).

Comparing my official 10K splits shows just how close my 2013 and 2020 races actually were, but I was never once ahead of my splits from that earlier race:

Splits: 2020 2013 2010

00:24:37 (7:55/mi)
00:50:11 (8:05/mi)
01:15:23 (8:05/mi)
01:40:57 (8:07/mi)
02:07:15 (8:11/mi)
02:35:48 (8:21/mi)
03:05:50 (8:33/mi)
03:35:12 (8:39/mi)
03:46:23 (8:19/mi)

00:49:00 (7:53/mi)

01:39:40 (8:09/mi)

02:35:11 (8:56/mi)

03:32:27 (9:13/mi)
03:43:30 (8:13/mi)


Avg race pace: 8:38/mi 8:31/mi 8:22.5/mi

1,979 / 21,879 overall finishers
1,690 / 12,871 male finishers
154 / 1257 male finishers age 45-49

Garmin Data

Strava Data

My Photos

Even though I thought my push from the 40K timing mat to the finish was faster than 2013, I ended up being 8 seconds slower.  That said, I did set a PR for the final 0.7 mile stretch.  A strong finish is always something to be proud of, and, at the very end, this was the strongest of the four times I have completed this marathon.

I may have finished nearly 3 minutes later than I did in 2013 and only recorded my 6th best marathon result (out of 10 if I include the 27 Miles for 27 Victims charity run I did in 2012), but I'm still quite happy.  I still improved 7 minutes from last year's Long Beach Marathon (my average pace never fell below 10 minutes per mile).   If I directly compare GPS data from all of my previous LA Marathons, I recorded 2nd bests over several segments and actually set two PRs.  By data, I only fell short of my 2013 time by one second per mile.

An amusing footnote:  I spent a good amount of time running behind a guy dressed like a bright orange traffic cone.  I passed him before I finished, but found a pic of him courtesy of the Daily Breeze.  I looked up his bib (#2633) to see his result.  He actually crossed the start line 5 minutes after me, but his chip time indicates he was nearly a minute faster!  You can see how close we were by comparing our clock times using the searchable results at each split.  I was a minute ahead of him at 20K, he passed me before 25K and increased his lead to over 30 seconds by 35K, but then I passed him for good before crossing the mat at 40K.

One more thing...I really want to thank the people of Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica for not letting the current health scare deter them from volunteering or otherwise coming out in large numbers to support those of us crazy enough to run these long races. Believe me, it makes all the difference in the world especially during the tough latter miles. I would like to give an extra shout out to Ryan VanMeter who rode his bike to intercept me multiple times while I climbed toward the peak on San Vicente.  This definitely motivated me to pick up the pace just when I needed encouragement most.

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