Sunday, December 5, 2021

Palos Verdes Marathon
(2008's 26.2 Mile Course In 2021)

A big question leading up to this day was would I be able to start by 7:00am as if this were an actual race.  Last night, I didn't exactly place myself on the right path by setting the alarm for 5:30am.  When I ran the Palos Verdes Half Marathon from Point Fermin in 2008, I woke up at 5:30am...and that race started at 7:30am.  For nearly every marathon I have registered, I aimed to arrive at the event an hour ahead of the race, minimally a half an hour before.  For last year's Los Angeles Marathon, I had to catch a shuttle in Santa Monica ridiculously early on the same morning we lost an hour due to time change.  For LA, I spent an entire week shifting my hours earlier and earlier.  I had no need to do that for this run.  In fact, last night was the first night of the week I went to bed at a reasonable hour.

Sure I wake up as soon as the alarm sounds at 5:30am, but I don't exactly rush to get out the door.  I make a Nespresso latte and enjoy it with a Porto's Refugiado while still lying in bed.  If I want to reach Point Fermin by 6:30am, I really should leave the house by 6:00am.  It's already 6:15am.  Should I wear short sleeves or long?  I check the outside thermometer and the forecast for Rancho Palos Verdes.  I'm definitely wearing calf sleeves, but why am I still on the fence about what shirt to wear?  I decide to wear long, grab a sweat jacket for after I finish, and a towel to cover the car seat.

I finally make it out the door after 6:30am.  I should be able to make it to Point Fermin in time, but I am cutting it close.  Thankfully this is not a race day.  I do not anticipate traffic, I should not be competing for parking spaces at this early hour, and I will be able to park just steps from where I plan to start running.  Damn!  I forgot to grab a water bottle I had planned to sip on while driving over!  There is no need to turn back though...I do have my full running bottle with me and a plan to swap for another mid-run.  I think I can safely sip on this one without fear I'll run out.

I stood closer to the middle of Paseo del Mar in 2008 because the road was closed to traffic

I arrive at Point Fermin Park just five minutes before 7am.  It is even cooler here, but there is no fog and the marine layer only appears dense to the west.  I find my way to roughly where I stood in the starting corral for the 2008 half marathon.  Yes, I'm in the middle of the street.  There are no people (and thankfully no cars) around me...I capture the moment with my smartphone, send the photo to my wife and mom along with the message "7am is a go".  With less than two minutes, there is no time to warm up.  Does a warm up even matter?  This is not a race.  The route I will be doing will actually be longer than a marathon due to a necessary detour.  My warm up will be the first few miles of the run.  I watch the seconds count down and...

...I start my Garmin watch at exactly 7:00:01am.   I'm off to the not-a-races!

This may not be a race, but I have photos of
me 14 miles into the run thanks to my wife
Since today's run was not a race, I won't go into details like I would in my typical race report.  However, I did complete this attempt in a manner that is far closer to a race than any of my long training runs with surprisingly few interruptions caused by red lights at intersections.  I rarely had to slowdown for or detour around traffic...vehicular or pedestrian.  Thanks to my Garmin Fenix 5's ability to navigate an upload course, I strayed only once...and it was an insignificant distance.  The only thing I would not have elected to do during an actual race was wait a few minutes for a park employee to open a public restroom (I think my only mid-race bio break was during Surf City in 2011...still my all-time marathon PR).  Thanks to my wife, I was able to stay sufficiently hydrated, exchanging water bottles 14 miles into the run...a handoff as smooth as any relay baton exchange I have made.  I carried exactly the right amount of Clif Shots and Bloks to maintain my energy level throughout.

Comparing my start with the half marathon I raced on nearly the same course over 14 years ago, I actually maintained a faster pace on each of the first six miles today...though it is somewhat unfair to compare the two runs.  In May of 2008, I had not yet run a full marathon (had only begun to train for my first) and it was unseasonably warm.  Though starting that race slower, I was actually running faster than my target pace, especially on the climb up Western, because I anticipated suffering on the back half...whereas today I was just maintaining what felt comfortable.  Another reason I cannot directly compare the's numbers include a necessary detour (around the stretch of Paseo del Mar that collapsed in 2011).  This came after the first mile.  In other words, subsequent mile splits in my GPS track data do not align.

Today, I reached the 13.1 mile mark in 1:57:27 (at 8:58:49a).  If this had been a race, I would have tried to run the first half faster.  I often have half marathon splits of under two hours on longer runs.  Of course most of those are flat or downhill trending...not constantly rolling like this.  It took me 2:16:23 to complete the 2008 PV Half Marathon!

As expected, the back half of this mostly out-and-back course proved a lot more challenging than the front. What were gradual westward descents became painfully long eastward ascents.  Based on my experience from that 2008 half marathon, I knew the climb from the lowest point in Portuguese Bend to the peak in San Pedro would be a grind.  Heat was thankfully not a factor this time, but I was already feeling the elevation change as I left Lunada Bay.  And I ran into a headwind, first around Terranea Resort and again closer to the finish.

PV Marathon Finisher Selfie at Point Fermin Lighthouse

I completed 26.2 miles in 4:15:28 (at 11:17:59a) and crossed the finish line at Point Fermin Park in 4:19:44 (at 11:22:12a).  Even if I include the bio break, I still managed to do the whole 26.59 mile course in 4:22:11.  All of these numbers are better than my chip time in Maui by a considerable amount.  My marathon split was comparable to Los Angeles in 2015.  Of course, I got injured during Maui (which was also my very first marathon) and didn't realize I was sick during the 2015 race...but those courses lack the punishing rolling hills of this one.  The total amount of elevation change in Palos Verdes' full marathon course is nearly double than that of LA's Stadium to the Sea, more than double of Maui's, over six times more than Surf City's nearly sea level course.  I have not raced upon a course that compares, but now have a fairly good idea of what I might be able to do.

Only once before have I run 26.2 miles or more without the incentives of a race...nine years ago I joined former Naughty Dog coworkers in raising money for the 27 Sandy Hook victims.  On that day I hit my marathon split in 4:33 and completed 27.1 miles in 4 hours and 42 minutes almost exactly the same amount of time as my first marathon, but I ran with a pack for the whole distance and took many breaks along the way.  If I just compare moving time, I actually completed that half mile longer run a few minutes faster than today's...upon a nearly flat sea level course.  That said, today's effort (and the training that preceded it) was 100% self-motivated and the hilly run was significantly more challenging.

So was this a race?  At this point does it even matter?  It was only the 11th time I completed the distance...a PR for the course.  My mom pointed out that this is my first marathon win.  Of course, I also finished in last place...

Garmin Data

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