Gary’s Long Beach Marathon Race Report

Long Beach Marathon

Intention From the old French word “Intendre”…”to direct one’s attention”.

Another successful marathon culminated the Beach Runner season last weekend.

As always, I’d like to share my story with you all about that day.

Let’s go back a year first though.

One year ago, training with Matt Brown, I was running my behind off trying to break 3:30. Not sure exactly why but that was a goal

I’ve had for a while to break that mark.

At about mile sixteen I began to feel the wheels coming off. If you’ve never experienced a “bonk” when running…let me describe it for you.

It begins with a little pain going through your legs, for me it’s my hamstrings, then like a virus, it just gets bigger and bigger, spreading through both legs.

Last year, chasing Matt, the virus pain began slowing me down about mile 16. He started pulling away from me and as much as I tried, I could not catch up to him.

By mile eighteen to nineteen the “bonk” was full on! The pain had spread from my legs throughout my whole body.

It felt worse than tiredness. It was an exhaustion beyond words. I mean I’m pretty fit with great running form…but the “bonk” can bring any runner to an absolute standstill.

So I ended up walking…barely moving up the gradual hills of Ocean Boulevard. Cursing and screaming at myself…wondering…”Why do I do this to myself”? And a real profound sense of…”This isn’t worth it.”

I’ve run a bunch of marathons but never had the REAL SENSE of “This ain’t worth it”. This is an ANT (automatic negative thought) in the worse sense of the word.

It really effected me that day. I pulled out of it and found my second wind about mile 24 and powered in the last two miles to a time of 3:40. Matt finished with a stellar first marathon time of 3:27.

Would I run again? Would I try to go under 3:30 again?

Eight months later…

I sat with the Beach Runner mentors in Matt’s house. We were going around telling everyone our goals for the upcoming year.

Matt shared he was going to try to qualify for Boston.

It came around to me. “I think I will try to get some runners in under four hours. That way I can coach and not be so focused on myself.”

Sub four hours. Just like that…my intention was set.

If you’ve been reading SoCalRunning for a while, you’ve probably heard quite a bit about intention from our writing.

Intention is a deeper notion than a goal. It’s the purpose behind the’s your focus…as you go through your training.

When I start teaching a yoga class, I always ask the class to set their intention.

Wayne Dyer says intention is the connecting to the higher powers of the universe…opening yourself up for a divine guidance.

Intention works at a deeper level than our goals. Its the aligning of our subconscious with our activities.

So with that that I was set for the Beach Runner season.

21 weeks of training…of coaching…of training runners every Saturday morning. I taught a lot of yoga…I slowed down and began all my runs from the back of the pack. Inspiring..motivating…doing everything I could to get runners to go another mile.

And a big thing I learned thanks to an odd tip from Steve Mackel was I listened to an amazing presentation from some top notch endurance coach on the importance of eating and electrolytes in endurance sports.

The fact is…I’ve never been too serious about these two things before. I’d eat a Cliff bar or two. Maybe have a goo. And fill my water bottles with some Ultima and be off to the races.

I learned that getting a healthy healthy dose of electrolytes is completely essential for not “bonking”. And that most long distance endurance athletes have nowhere near the electrolytes they need to replace the massive, and I mean massive sodium loss experienced in a marathon.

It is important to not only have a sports drink but also to supplement with electrolyte tablets.

And to eat! To eat like every 30 minutes during intense athletic performance. It’s so easy to do now with convenient foods like Cliff Blocs (my new favorite especially Margarita flavor with salt).

So thanks for Cliff who gave the Beach Runners lots of Cliff Blocs for the season. And to Accelerade for giving us lots of great drink mix, and with ample doses of Enduralytes from Hammer Nutrition (Electrolyte Tablets)…the nutrition/supplementation side of my training improved tremendously.

I told a few runners that I would be running a sub 9 minute pace race day.

And so Race Day was last Sunday.

This was to be the largest Beach Runner group ever.

How would we all do?

Part II Race Day

The Weekend of Race day I was nervous with having to speak at the Long Beach Marathon Expo twice on ChiRunning.
I made a pretty cool video on some race day tips which you can watch here.

My sleeping was fairly screwed up upcoming to race day. I teach college late at night, I have to grade a lot of papers.

Despite all this madness, I showed up early race day. Got to give a ton of hugs and best wishes to the whole team. There’s not too much coaching to do on race day. Well maybe there is…

My running partners were to be big Greg…all six foot five of him…and Jake.

Greg is one of the coolest cats I know. We spend a lot of long runs together talking about spiritual/societal issues. He has been trying to get under four hours for years.

Jake is the “wild man” of the group. Even if it is 50 F outside Jake is running with a shirt off long hair flowing in the wind. He has had a strong training…staying close to my routine…lots of trail running…lots of power yoga.

After a huge Beach Runners warm up. We went to the starting line and we were off.

Funny enough we were following Matt again…this time it was a Cliff 3:50 pace setter. Follow “Matt” became the mantra. He had some balloons and was doing sub 9 minute miles so this seemed simple enough.

Unfortunately about mile 4 we lost Greg. I wanted to wait for him but wisely Jake said “no” we have to stay on pace…which was the correct call.

Then we ran into Jenny another Beach Runner. She was also trying to go sub 4:00. She was our fastest woman marathoner this year. I hadn’t spoke too much to Jenny in our training. She was moving along well.

She pulled ahead of us about mile eight.

One thing about race day for me was all the love I began to experience on the course.

After coaching marathoners and half marathoners for three years in the Long Beach community…I’ve got to know and help a lot of people…this season and past seasons.

And I began to see so many Beach Runners on the course…half marathoners. Vitza, a long time Beach Runner about mile 11, was also trying to go sub four. I said “join us” but he wasn’t quite going our pace.

Jake and I were both very focused on our ChiRunning form. Leaning from the ankles…staying relaxed…swinging our arms…moving to a metronome. I was feeling great.

At the breakaway point…the half marathoners split from the marathoners…and things opened up considerably.

It was just Jake and I at this point. We were about 3-4 minutes below target pace which I had on my wrist again thanks to Cliff.

Jake began to drag a little…I had to backtrack a couple of times and tell him to keep up his pace…he was in Garmin world and said his pace was fine…but after looking at our splits later…we were slowing down a little.

Once we got to Marine Stadium, it was way cool to see a bunch of Beach Runners just behind us including Steve Mackel who looked like he was going for sub four hours himself.

Then we came up to Cal State Long Beach and saw Matt Brown come down the other side of the road. He was shooting for Boston this year and was looking strong and very energetic.

We ran through the campus I was going nuts high fiving all the college students especially the cheerleaders. This was a major improvement over running up Studebaker from years past.

About mile eighteen running a small hill I began to feel that “hamstring” pain and some sore knees.

And I began to worry a little. I had been taking electrolytes during the whole race, but dropped about three of them on the beach path and with thousands of runners behind me was not going to stop to pick them up.

The right hamstring felt like it was going to “cramp up”. My knees felt really sore…maybe it was from the New Balance mid foot strike shoes I was wearing…”was there enough padding?”

I’ve run enough marathons now to know…this is my mind screwing with me trying to get me to walk and slow down.

So I kept going. In fact, I began to pick up the pace.

About mile 20 Jake and I were 4 minutes below pace. And it was time to pick it up.

We began to pass people like crazy. We were both amped up on electrolytes…Cliff Blocs…and with our ChiRunning form things just began moving.

We came up to Jenny who was walking. She said she had a terrible side pain. I told her to just keep on moving. That’s so important when you hit that tough part of the marathon…just to keep on moving…not to give in.

Jake and I kept on moving. We jammed up the little hills coming up to Ocean. The whole race Jake and I who are usually chatterboxes together…didn’t say much at all. It was all business. All business. I was going to get this guy under four hours.

About mile 23 I told Jake let’s cruise in. We were so ahead of pace. But Jake just kept on getting faster…faster and faster.

“Damnit Jake slow down just a bit”. But he keeps on trying to get ahead of me.

“F*^%*ker! He’s racing me!” So in a state of delusion I say “Fine, if you want to’s on!!!”

So I begin surging ahead. Short fast spurts of 400 yards like on a track…trying to shake him off.

I’m flying by people left and right. People are screaming at me “That’s the way to do it. You’re looking awesome!”

I’m focusing now on traffic lights. Just run to this traffic light then run to next. Ticking them off. “Nobody beats me the the last two miles of a marathon!”

Mile 26 I turn around to see if Jake is there.

Surprise, surprise…he’s right there. He survived the surge. My God, we must have been doing 7:30 miles the last two miles…looking like champions.

We run to the the finish line together…crossing it exactly at the same time.

Our time 3:53. Not my fastest time but a good marathon for me. Didn’t bonk. Ran the last 6 miles like a 10K. Saw so many Beach Runners and was just pumped up from all the love and energy.

We see other Beach Runners come in…Romeo 3:59…then Jenny at 4:00:40…Damn! She just missed it.

And we see Mackel come in with his PR at 4:09. Awesome.

Later we found out that with the time delay Jenny finishes with an official time of 3:59:55. Talk about cutting it close. Awesome finish, she toughs it out the last six miles.

At the cool Beach Runners finisher area…we find out Matt qualified for Boston with a time of 3:10. Frank finishes sub four. In all we have eight runners finish with a sub four hour marathon. Great results.

I eat, I get a massage, I drink.

And more important I give a ton of hugs to as many Beach Runners as I can.

So many of our runners give it their all out there on the course…everyone is a champion race day. Everyone. It’s the most inspiring thing to see a marathon or half marathon. Especially when you are a coach. It’s really a great day out there.

So did I stay true with my intention?

Sure did.

And it was really cool to run for someone else…my good good buddy Jake…who was literally on cloud nine that whole afternoon.

He is framing his medal with picture of him of race day…his first sub four hour marathon.

I remember what those days were like.

And it feels like I’m becoming an elder now…happy to see others accomplish their goals…rather than being the warrior myself out there.

Though, the warrior days are coming up…the Island is calling.

The rigorous training of Winter will be starting soon.

Until then, I’m resting for a while. Eating. Doing a little hibernation. Resting up for my hard core training cycle which I will start in about a week.

This whole marathon was fantastic. Maybe my best marathon ever.

Isn’t that the whole point?


3 Responses to “Gary’s Long Beach Marathon Race Report”

  1. lil 1/2 pint on October 20th, 2008

    Awesome race report, Gary.

    Congratulations on a great race and achieving your “intention”!

  2. Matt Sutterfield on October 22nd, 2008

    Great read, Gary.
    “Though, the warrior days are coming up?the Island is calling.”
    Haha… I love it… See you on the trails soon.

  3. Cindi Wallker on October 26th, 2008

    Hi Steve and Gary. I heard you both speak at the expo. I loved the visualization by Steve and the demo of Chi Running by Gary. I loved both your race reports. Great work on your intentions.

    I started the 1/2 at the Early Start and I had originally thought since I was walking and had never completed 13.1 in less than 4:30 that that’s how it would be on race day. When we did the visualization with Steve at the expo I put up 4:25 on the clock. Gary said we could start using the Chi method in the race so I tried to stay focused on that. It all came together for me and I finished my first 1/2 walking and coming in full of energy at 4:03:15 taking short steps, staying centered and breathing correctly and staying conscious of keeping my chest open and my knees and hips relaxed.

    Thanks for your sessions at the expo.

    I will be at the Chi Running Workshop in Hermosa

    Cindi Wallker