Where: Los Angeles, California (course map)
Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew
Benefited: Lupus LA
Time: 30:26 Personal record!
-Mile 1: 9:38
-Mile 2: 9:46
-Mile 3: 9:59
-Mile 3.1: 1:03
So, this happened. I finally beat my Moby Dick 5K PR, on a weekend when I hadn’t thought I’d be able to fit any running in. How did this happen? Get comfortable, kids… I have a story to tell about my New Year’s Conquest at Dockweiler Beach.
Due to some unfortunately timed family events, Drew and I found ourselves getting ready to return to LA a mere 10 days after having gotten home from a Cali Christmas. This second trip was really only 3 days long not counting flights, so I hadn’t even entertained a thought of sneaking in another warm winter race until a few Shammies, having heard my tale of conquering LA hills over Christmas, asked if I would be racing again. Though I said no, the seed was planted.
Soon I was on Running in the USA, checking if there would be any races happening during my small window of free time in LA. Sure enough, there was a 5K/10K/15K being held a short drive from my in-laws’ house, and – not only that – it was a race with bling AND registration was pretty inexpensive. I checked with Drew to make sure he wouldn’t hate me for signing up for a 7am race, then giddily signed up for the Conquer Our Run race at Dockweiler Beach.
Saturday morning arrived, and with the help of a brain still set (mostly) on east coast time, I was up before dawn and ready to run. Bib pickup started at 6:30 and the race was due to start right at 7, so the sun was only starting to rise during our journey to the beach.
The race was small (77 participants total for the 3 distances, according to the results), so bib pick-up was quick and easy. Volunteers with lists greeted runners, who were directed into a line upon arrival. Shirts were available for purchase, and each runner got a goodie bag with vitamins, chocolate-covered pretzels, a sports drink, and some protein powder:
The sun was rising spectacularly as I pinned my bib, and just seemed to get increasingly beautiful as the seconds ticked by. I took about a million pictures, but here are two of my favorites:
The race photographer even captured a shot of me running warm-up laps with the sunrise as a backdrop:
If only my gait didn’t look so messed up. Sigh.**
With several minutes to go until start time, all the runners got called over for some group warm-ups, led by a coach at a local fitness training place. I liked warming up as a group… not only did it force me to actually warm up (which I’ve been known to skip a few too many times), but it was also way more fun in a group setting.
Circled up for warm-ups
Once that was done, the race director called us in for a huddle. She explained about the series of races she directs (Conquer Our Run), explained the course (a straight-line out-and-back along the service road, with one out-and-back for 5K runners, 2 for 10K, and 3 for 15K), and pumped us up to run and have some fun:
Pre-race pep talk… you can see me (and Drew!) looking pretty cold, directly under the tanker ships in the distance**
Quick note about the temperature. I talked big in my last recap about how lots of runners were bundled against the “cold” which was my ideal running temp. This time was quite a bit chillier (though still much warmer than it would have been at a race closer to home!), with the wind coming off the ocean and the fact that the sun wasn’t out yet. I was so glad I had brought my arm sleeves.
On your mark, get set…**
…go! Look how happy everyone is!**
Drew caught us as we crested the little hill and turned onto the service road
He also caught me in the middle of the pack, looking positively giddy
Here’s a glimpse into where my brain was at the start of this race: I had gone into the hilly Christmas 2 Give 5K worried about injury and intent on taking it easy, and yet sub-9:00 paces felt easy at the start. I ran with that feeling (literally) and ended up doing way better in the race than I expected… so good, in fact, that it was my 3rd fastest 5K ever, even with the ridonk hills.
This race was flat as a pancake, with the exception of the short incline at the start and the occasional speed bump. If I could match my Christmas 2 Give effort, then I could probably do pretty darn well. I could maybe even PR. In fact, I was sure of it. This was the first race I started with actual confidence that I’d do well, and the first race I actually went all* out in. (*More or less.)
Rather than start at the back of the pack and cruise easily for the first mile or so like I usually do, I passed a bunch of people and ran. Not an all-out sprint, but not a leisurely jaunt… I actually felt like I was putting in an effort. I was obsessive about glancing at Simon and saw lots of high 8:00s and low 9:00s and felt pretty chuffed with myself.
Until I started slowing down. I was frustrated, because those speedy paces had felt so easy at the last race… then I realized, those speedy paces happened because a good chunk of the start of that last race was downhill. There were no downhills here, no gravity to help me, just me and the flat, flat road.
I pushed a little until Simon beeped for 1 mile – 9:38. Not bad! However, I was already being battered by my Blerch. My knee was hurting, my ankle was hurting, my foot was slapping the pavement weirdly, and my right arm was weirdly tingly and kind of hurt, and it was freaking me out a little. Despite the warm-up, I wasn’t very warm, and all I could focus on was my freezing hands, and all the other things I just listed. The Blerch was telling me to stop, to walk for a bit, but I didn’t want to. I decided to push until the turnaround, where we were told there would be water, and then I’d take some water and walk to drink it.
And then I got to the turnaround and there was no water. Womp womp. (I later realized the director had said we could ask for water, but I didn’t see any at the time so I didn’t bother asking.) I steeled myself to keep going. Simon beeped for 2 miles – 9:46. I was happy to see I was still sub-10:00, which I couldn’t remember happening for more than 1 mile in a race before. A shiny grail with “PR” engraved on it appeared in the clouds before me, and I gritted my teeth and pressed on.
Gone was the giddy smile from my picture at the start. I had warmed up, but my knee still hurt. My ribs were starting to hurt, and the sinuses in my head were so pissed off at me. But the grail was still there, so I kept pushing. I caught up with another runner who was going just ever so slightly slower, and I decided to pace her. I was lurking over her shoulder for a good quarter-mile or so – no intention of pipping her at the end, I was just desperate for someone to keep up with – until I just couldn’t anymore.
At around the 2.5 mark I stopped. I gave myself from a signpost to the next speed bump to walk and shake things out, but when I got there I couldn’t bring myself to run. My head was pounding, my ribs were killing me, I was *this close* to vomiting, and I was sucking wind like crazy. This is why you don’t start too fast!! I was scolding myself. I switched Simon to overall time and saw I was still within PR range, but just barely. That was enough. I was off again.
On the home stretch
I tried to summon all the mental tricks I could. Telling myself I only had a half-mile to go, trying to remember the machine feeling I’ve had at the end of races before, trying a thing Colin told me once, where you visualize hammers in your hands and you swing them forcefully backwards to propel you forward. I chicked a guy and tried to stay ahead of him. I tried to focus on the beautiful scenery and the novelty of planes from LAX taking off directly over my head. I repeated the mantra “Don’t puke don’t puke don’t puke.”
“Don’t puke don’t puke don’t puke” (far right)**
I spotted the finish line, and I saw Drew with his phone ready to snap my usually goofy near-the-finish picture. I didn’t even have the spare energy to look at him, let alone smile:
That view though.
And then there it was: the finish line. My brain was yelling “sprint!!!” but my body was all “oh helllllll no.” I cruised down the incline, trying to wish the race photographer away:
This is what you look like when you’re wishing the photographer away… like you’ve aged 20 years**
I stopped Simon, heard someone at the finish line yell out my bib number and a time (the time didn’t register), and staggered away to find water. A volunteer stopped me dead in my tracks to give me a medal (a dog tag) and ask my name, which I croaked out, swaying a little, and then I lurched over to another volunteer to ask for water. The race photographer caught this moment too, which looks much more cheerful than I remember:
I finally found water, guzzled some, wandered about a bit, and then looked at Simon for real. 30:26. A 23-second PR, official results pending. Drew found me dazed but smiling. I looked at my splits and saw that all 3 miles clocked in under 10:00 – something I had never* done before (*I guess I must have at the Moby Dick race, but wasn’t tracking myself so don’t know what my splits were). As my urge to projectile vomit settled down, the runner’s high began to hit… and then it got better – I got a prize!
The pre-race info promised that top finishers would get swag from the movie 13 Hours (seriously, how LA is it to give out movie swag as prizes?). As I was still a bit dazed, the race director came up to me and handed me a poster. Since I am never considered a top finisher, I assumed they had extras and the director was just being nice. After all, there had been a bunch of runners ahead of me. Then Drew told me that most of the runners ahead of me had kept going – they were running the longer distances.
Brandishing my movie poster
Turns out, I finished 9th out of 40 women, and 15th overall for the 5K. What?!?! Damn yo, small races are awesome! And, the official results match my Garmin time, so my 23-second PR stands. Moby Dick has been harpooned, and that elusive sub-30 finish is looming ever nearer! My quads are still killing me 3 days later, but it was a pretty fabulous way to start the year!
**Photos with asterisks courtesy of the race director**