Amazing Race To A Personal Best
Thanksgiving 2009 was the day I decided to lace-up for my quest for a marathon’s personal best. I searched on line for a program I can do. My running buddies and I were laid from work so I will do this alone. It was a challenge from the get go but a 4:30.00 goal was on my mind.
I stuck to the plan and actually managed to do it 97% of the time. Rain or shine, dawn and late evening runs even weekends, I was there.
Fast Forward – March 21 2010.
Amazing Race To A personal Best.
OK, stay with me here. These is a bit lengthy…
So. I slept pretty good the night before. Race day, I have a banana and my PerfectWater about 5am in the morning. I was nervous but I felt ready after an 18 week training.
LA’s Stadium to the Sea Here I come…
First hurdle of the day. Traffic.
I figured it’s early Sunday morning and it should be a breeze getting there. ‘Nope. Less than 2 miles on the freeway exit to Dodger Stadium there’s barely any movement except for people and runners getting out from their vehicles and running to the starting line 2-3 blocks away.Accident up ahead. A phone number on a taxi 4 vehicles in front of me quickly caught my attention. I was 20 minutes away from start time. My mind is screaming “I’M LATE” but managed to calm down.
Tried a different route but no luck. Got off ramp and start calling a TAXI. However, I spotted one parked in a nearby gas station and beg this gentlemen to get me to the starting line fast. Call that luck.
Hurdle # 2. Roadblocks.
I had a great conversation with this Yellow Taxi Cab driver as we navigate to the city’s roadblocks. I can see the hill where the stadium is at but blockades has been set-up early. Finally, we find this small residential area headed to one of the main entrances but boy it was a challenge.
So I was dropped off almost to the gate and was able to talked to some folks that started their race to the starting line for a good 20 minute and uphills already. These were the runners that got stuck in traffic – and there were a lot of them.
Hurdle #3. Start Time Delay.
Due to major issues on the freeways, etc. the gun start was moved many times. Call that luck!
Now, I was late and so trying to find my way into the starting line to where I can get to the 10 minute/mile (4:30) finishers staging area was impossible. It was jammed packed and runners are shoulder to shoulder almost. I found me a real estate at the 12:30 min/mile way in the back. Can’t complain now, there were thousands behind. It was amazing.
Hurdle #4. Walkers In Front.
When I did my last marathon 7 years ago there’s this (unwritten) rule I guess, where runners actually line up according to their running pace or expected finish time. The starting area is full of markers identifying all these different paces. I don’t think this happened here. Oh well.
So it took me over 8 minutes from the gun to get to the official starting line. Ran around the stadium for one mile and folks are walking, I repeat walking in front. But hey, everybody’s having a good time, myself included.
Hurdle #5. Port-A-Pot Lines.
This is normal. With thousands of runners on the streets it’s a challenge when nature calls. I got my chance at the 6th mile. I have to run that long to get my first (and last) stop. That food early on was giving me minor discomfort.
Hurdle#6. Pace Setters Not In Sight.
Saw this 4:30 pacing team at 6.5 miles (call that luck) and ran with them up to the 21st-22nd mile. Navigating about six miles to join the pacers took a lot of energy for sure. Just hoping I’ll have enough to finish on record time.
These part of the race was fun. It was a block party every mile. The crowed support was terrific. Plenty of sights and sounds. And yeah, you’re in LA so everything goes as well, if you know what I mean?
Got to run side by side with about 7 Legacy Runners (those who’ve ran all 25 LA) along the way. I was able to talk to them even. Say hi, appreciate and compliment them for what they accomplished.
I do have high respect for these runners…they rock!
How about barefoot runners? I talked to two of them.
One was a gentleman from Korea ( he said it in broken English). Can’t speak English but when I did the sign asking him if he’s OK, I got a two thumbs up. Amazing.
He’s OK at mile 16 or 18 (watch out for these guys in a race near you) :0)
Hurdle #7. Water. Water. Where is my Perfect Water.
I have in my little pouch six recovery drink mix. All I have to do is find me a bottled water (and there’s plenty) and mix this stuff, shake, run and go. I did that five times – spread out during the race.
On mile 20-21 though I was thirsting for my PerfectWater. Yes, I do have a preferred drink ( I trained using these stuff). My buddy at work is to give it to me at this stretch of the race. Well I was craving for it starting mile 18, not a good sign.
I know I was getting tired. There were times when the pacing team is moving faster and I have to catch up.
Also, the body is starting to fight with the mind. I remembered one runner said, ” at mile 18 you are officially tired”. What was that for? But you see, it’s the point of no return and the REAL race begins.
Hurdle #8. Endurance Block OUT.
Started the race with 3 endurance cubes. Every 45-60 minutes I would eat a few.
Mile 21 – I’m out and my perfect water seems to be out out sight.
Then, my angel came through. This big dude about 5 feet 10 inches and 250 lbs started running next to me. Actually I felt like he carried me for a few seconds out there and then he handed me this water with my antioxidant enhanced drink as requested and a gave me few words of encouragement. Believe me I needed both. Am I lucky…
Drank 3/4 of the bottle and the for a quest for a personal best was on.
I felt good after 2-3 minutes. The body can feel the hydration and my body is reacting positively (just like when I was training).
Hurdle#9. Body and Mind Collision Course.
Mile 21. I’m officially tired and now the mind and body game begins. The tank is almost empty. I have to find ways to keep me motivated and focused for the last five miles – the homestretch.
I’ve tried imagining the 5mile routes I had during the training. I remember the hill repeats when it is was raining, etc…
I’ve done my prayers at the early part of the race and again tried to remember who I was praying for beside myself and my family.
I remember my special friends online from DailyMile whose given me motivations and inspirations, etc. These guys are the best!
Now at Century City or maybe it was Santa Monica already, I ran into these happy bunch with their gym/yoga outfit cheering on the streets. It was like rainbow color and the cheers were so loud. I can’t help but started high-fiving with them. You can feel the energy. Yeah!
For a few minutes I forgot the pain, I was having fun again despite the condition I was in at the time and remembered the importance of the “human touch”. The mind and body collision was off for a while.
Hurdle#10. Who Moved My Finish Line?
It’s home stretch. Now the tank is really empty. It’s just the human will at work.
I have to dig down inside. I can see the finish line but it seems like it’s getting moved further away as I got closer.
The wave of people going into the chutes to the finish line was a wonderful sight. Be there in a few minutes.
Now, it’s my turn. I know I can finish the race like the previous 4 marathons.
The question was, can I do it at 4:30? This will be the ultimate – my Personal Best.
I started talking to myself and saying I know I can, I know I can…I can do it, repeatedly.
The crowd is getting louder. I can hear and feel the energy. And for one second I saw 7 or 8 Elvis Presley right behind and getting closer to me. Lucky?
They have a boom box with the volume all pumped up.
I got it…I will have to ride these human energy in a Rock-N-Roll fashion to the end.
So for about half a block after almost resigning to just walk and run to the end, I had these last push and boy I did.
I looked at my watch and saw 4:29:58. The gun time was about 8-9 minutes from my race time. I know I had just ran a personal best! Can’t describe how it feels.
I’ve never ran this time before only in my mind. So after 18 weeks of training, 18 pounds of weight lost, now I can say I’ve finished the Stadium To The Sea despite the hurdles before, during and after the race…amazing!
(Extra) Hurdle#11. Feathered Friend’s Congratulatory Bomb.
Oh were not done. So, it was a beautiful race day morning in the Santa Monica Pier area.
I just finished a 26.2 mile run. Achieved a personal record. The family was there to meet me at the finish. Tired but very happy and accomplished.
On the way to the parking lot I was wearing my finishers medal and was wrapped around with this special overcoat from the race to keep warm.
I was waiting outside this tent waiting for my wife and kids from the rest room and guess what happened?
A feather friend in flight dropped some congratulatory BOMB on me. I can’t believe it.
What are the chances of getting hit on target – the head, and for so many to choose from?
Luckily, I have in front of me cases of bottled water. So I have to clean up without a shampoo on the spot. Unbelievable.
(Extra) Hurdle #12. On The Way Home And Hungry Like A Wolf.
After the race, I barely finished a banana. Did 4 maybe 5 bagel bites and that was it. I was so tired I can not eat.
So, we head home. 25 minutes later we ended up at a fast food restaurant’s drive-in.
This time I was really feeling hungry. We have a big order so we have to pull up front and wait for our order.
It was over 10 minutes and still no food in sight. Somebody need to go in and check what’s happening.
Now, after what Ive’ been throughout all morning I’m getting a little ticked.
Somebody better get in…I want my food!
Busy time at the store and the staff were short handed unfortunately. Anyways, we got our order and was home in just a few short minutes.
I gobbled everything I ordered and more…like a hungry wolf.
Later, that day after a brief clean-up and rest I was able to fulfill my Sunday obligation, as well.
Amazing race to a personal best — ACCOMPLISHED.
Do You Have A Personal Best In Mind?
I wanted to close with a few words about “personal best” from one of America’s most decorated speed skating Olympian, Bonnie Blair. Here’s what she said;
I’m sure what’s most familiar in a lot of your memories was the last Olympics in Lillehammer where there, I captured my 4th and 5th Olympic gold medal.
And I’m sure a lot of you think it would have been my best race ever – but it wasn’t. My best race was in the 1500 meter and in that race I placed fourth and missed the bronze by 3/100 of a second.
After the award ceremony was over with, I went back to the media room and I have all these media guys installing microphone in front of my face and like, ” Oh you must be so disappointed…”.
In a way, yeah maybe I was a little bit, but really in a sense, I felt up on top of the world. And the reason being was, in that race in that 1500 meter I skated that race faster than I ever had in my entire life.
It was a personal best for me, by almost half a second – now in speed skating that’s a long way. But not only it was a personal best for me in the 1500 but also the first personal best I achieved in any race for me in any races since the Olympic were in Calgary in 1988.
So I mean yeah I was on top of the world. Sure, I would have been higher up there had I received that bronze medal but the way I look at it is, there was nothing to be disappointed with because I just gone and done something I’ve never done my entire life. I’d gone faster and I achieved a personal best…
So, I guess in a sense, what is the measure we set for our self? Is it to try to get a gold, or silver or bronze?
You know sometimes the American public put so much emphasis on that. And, I guess the way I always like to look at it, is trying to strive for a personal best.
Doing what we know how and doing it the very best way we know how to do it…
I did train for a 4:30 finish for this years LA Marathon. Also, I have a little bet going on…and that is to do better than Oprah Winfrey’s Marathon time of about 4:29:20.
I accomplished the first with a time of 4:29:59. The latter, I missed it by just 39 seconds. That’s right – 39 seconds.
Was I disappointed?
Maybe a little bit, but just like Bonnie Blair, I had done something that I’ve never done before in my entire life.
I know I did gave it all against all odds (mentioned earlier) and after 26.2 miles running with emptied tank, I achieved a “personal best”.
When I saw my time across the finish line, that was so COOL. That’s a moment I will not forget.
I don’t know what personal best you’re on in life, health, financial, faith, relationship, sports, etc.
Here’s what I know, if you give it your best, that feeling of accomplishment is amazing. You can do it!