Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 Honda LA Marathon Race Report

Three inches of rain and temperatures in the 40s the day before the LA Marathon led to predictions of a cold and wet 26.2 miles on Sunday March 18th. Fortunately, the weather turned and the 23,000+ runners lined up in Parking Lot 6 at Dodger Stadium ran in dry conditions, around 50 degrees, a mix of sunshine and overcast, and air as clean and crisp as something rolling off the Alaskan tundra. Only the headwind for most of the course kept it from being ideal running conditions. My goal had been to run the flats at an 8.24/mile pace and average-with stops and any slowdowns-enough speed to get under 3:50. That, and enjoy a course that I expected to be a treat run with a bunch of fellow enthusiastic marathoners.

My #1 take away is that this course, now in its second year, is a treat. Enough hills to be honest but still fast, and about as much of an LA experience as any course could offer-with the Big Blue start, Kodak Theater, Capital Records building, Hollywood Sign, Rodeo Drive, and a stuning finish along the beach in Santa Monica. The elite runners spoke of the wind costing them some time, so a relative tyro like me is safe suggesting that a few minutes were given up to the wind, but averaging 8.37 pace over each of the first 10K's and overall produced a new PR at 3:46.01, well under the target of 3:50. Gear choices turned out to be solid as well, and I was lucky to break a cardinal rule of distance running without paying the price. That maxim is Never run in anything untested at distance, and its a good one to follow. The predictions of rain and cooler temps, however, meant an LA buying spree-tights, short and long-sleeved shirts, Brooks running jacket-in combination with the Brooks Launch shoes, Injinji socks and Injinji gloves I had been training in over the weeks preceding the race. The Brooks Launch get a 5 Star rating from me: probably the lightest neutral cushion shoe out there, the lightest at this level of cushioning in any event. Enough room in the toe box, a 9.5 mm drop and a smooth roll off for a midfoot striker led to a comfortable and fast-feeling ride.

You always risk hot spots or worse with untried gear on a long run, but the tights (Champions from Target), Nike Miler short sleeve and Brooks LSD Lite Jacket II added last minute were all optimal, giving me just the right amount of protection from the coolest wind, and the security of some water resistance from the rain (that never showed).

The volunteers and spectator support were great although I rarely figured out where the Ultima sports drink was on the course and made do with water. I also emailed the LAM staff beforehand to question the choice to hold off on the calories until after mile 20. Ultima is a near-zero calorie sports drink, and putting the only calories on the course (CLIF shots) so late meant that just about everyone would have to pack their carbs-of-choice in order to get the nutrition to the muscles in time to make a difference in the last 6.2 miles. Frank McCourt has taken a justifiable beating in the press for his handling of the Dodgers, but it's the opposite story with the marathon run since 1986 and purchsed by the Dodgers owner in 2008: a struggling marathon with no real identity and an ever-changing course now holds a mirror up to La La Land, and allows good overall pace and a fast finish along with iconic scenery.

I'm grateful to the sponsors, Race Director and staff and all the volunteers for putting on an outstanding race and Expo, and look forward to running this slice of So Cal flavor again.

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