Long Beach Marathon Race Report and Why People Train with the Beach Runners

Beach Runner Mentor George Sets a New Half Marathon PR

10/13/08 Long Beach, California

This is what we do.
This is how we do it.

Wow – what a day yesterday was. So many people I talked with had PR’s. If yesterday was your first marathon or half marathon – congratulations – you got a PR and you took a big huge step towards fitness, health, and confidence in yourself. I remember my first half marathon and my first marathon like it was yesterday. Every mile on each race is burned into my memory.

And after you’ve done so many marathons and half marathons together – it gets harder and harder to get a PR. Everybody had a story. I enjoyed talking with so many of you after the race and hearing your stories. My goal yesterday was to get a PR – and here’s my story.

The past week was really nerve-wracking with all the ugly news about the economy, the stock market, and talk of doom and gloom. Gary talks about the Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) and we were bombarded with them last week from a multitude of sources. I didn’t even want to open a newspaper, watch the news on Television, or look at anything on the Internet. Recession. Stock market crash. Huge losses. Meltdown. Talk of the worst week since the Depression. Ugly. And the weather was really hot most of the week. And I don’t sleep as well when it’s hot. And as lots of you know – I’m a big baby when it comes to sleep. So I wasn’t exactly totally rested.

And I do believe that your mental state has an affect on your physical state – so we (or at least I) had some serious headwinds to overcome when it comes to thinking positive. Last week was a tough week to be positive. But I found a way. I connected with some people I haven’t talked with in a long time. I had some great conversations with an old high school friend Bill and his wife Margaret who live in Denver. I talked with one of our former neighbors in Walnut Creek who lives across from the house Michele and I lived in for 7 years. He’s been a mentor to me for a long time. Halvor is a retired engineer, 85 years old, and grew up in Denmark. He and his wife Inga were teenagers and young adults during World War II while Denmark was occupied by the Nazis and they immigrated to the U.S. during the 1950’s. They are fascinating people and we miss them.

Anyway – then Friday came and I always love going to the expo and getting my race bib and packet. It’s great walking up to the Convention Center – I get all energized. I’ve done this so many times and I still love it and I still feel like a little kid on Christmas every time I do that. And I worked in the Beach Runner booth for a little and hung out with John Siqueros, Steve, and Always-happy-Jason. That dude is so positive – it was great talking with him. His energy is infectious.

Then I had a great dinner at home with Michele Friday night and we slept in on Saturday. Aaahhhh. How great is that? Sleeping in on a Saturday – that is the best. It was windy Friday night – extra windy – and the wind woke me up in the middle of the night. And not only that – it was so cool. It was warm all week – so we sleep with the windows in the house open – and when we woke up Saturday morning it was 63 Fahrenheit in the house. Is that great – or what? That’s also why I slept so well – when it’s so cool. And I thought to myself – this is Catalina weather. When I ran the Catalina marathon in March 2008 – it was so windy the night before – and when I woke up it was so cool and clear and dry – about 50-55 F. Perfect running conditions and I had the run of my life that day. That was an exceptional run that day – one of the best days of my life – but that’s another story and another race report. Back to Long Beach.

Anyway – I just hung out Saturday and tried to stay off of my feet. I tried to avoid newspapers and any kind of bad news. We had a great dinner Saturday night and I got to bed early.

When I woke up Sunday – it was so cool – in the low 50’s – and I thought – if there was any day for a PR – this would be it. So I got ready and drove downtown and parked. I brought along some Gatorade to sip while we did body looseners. I felt so rested. And I get so energized seeing everybody in the dark at 6 am on race day. That gets me fired up every year.

Then we went to line up. Usually with all the people and the crowd – I get separated from the people that I plan on running with – but this time all of us stayed together. My PR in the half marathon was 1:49:55 – and to beat that I had to do roughly 8-minute miles. I set that PR on Super Bowl Sunday in 2004 in Huntington Beach and I’ve been trying to break that ever since. So this really has been a 4-year quest for me. I’ve had a lot of fast runs the past few weeks with 8-minute miles and some sub-8-minute miles – so I felt like I was properly trained.

I ran with Jennifer, her friend John, and Alicia. We got really near the starting line before the race which was critical. The crowd started moving and we crossed the start and we were running. After talking with Steve – we were shooting for an 8:30 mile the first mile – then drop down to 8-minute miles the rest of the way. The first mile we ran in 8:46 – so we were tracking pretty closely. It was so cool and I felt great. Then we got to mile 2 and we were at 17:02 – so we picked up a little time and averaged 8:31 for the first two miles – so we were tracking well. Then at mile 3 we were at 25 minutes and something – so again – we picked up some time and averaged a little over 8-minute miles.

At mile 4 – our time was 33 minutes and change – so our average was getting closer to 8-minute miles. At mile 5 – we were still together – incredible – this NEVER happens – and our time was 41 minutes – so we were right on track. I felt so good. The cool, dry air was such a relief after all the hot summer runs. It must have been 10-20 degrees cooler than our typical Saturday runs. After mile 5 we got separated. Alicia took off and Jennifer dropped behind me. John ran ahead to go to the bathroom and I never saw him again until the end of the race.

Right around the 5 or 6-mile mark – right around the lighthouse – some guy was yelling word of encouragement. He was yelling, “This is how we do it, Long Beach. Way to go, good job” and he kept going on and on. And you hear all those chants and yells the whole way. But something in there just clicked with me. This is how we do it. This is how we do it. And I couldn’t get that phrase out of my mind. It really resonated with me. And I thought to myself, this is what Beach Runners do. We run. We run half marathons and full marathons. And this is how we do it – with style and class, and fun, and a cool positive attitude, and we bring everybody with us no matter what your running experience is or fitness level or speed. And everybody gets better and does more than they think they can – no matter what your running experience is or fitness level or speed.

I stopped for the first time, caught my breath at the water station, and then started running again. Right around there – Jennifer caught up with me and we ran for a while together. At mile 6 – our time was around 51 minutes – so were still on track. This is where Jennifer fell behind me and I ran the rest of the race by myself. Then I leaned forward a bit and picked up some speed – and I was at mile 7 at 58 minutes – which is right about where I wanted to be. I knew I had to be at mile 7 in under an hour. Then I pretty much kept right around 8 minute miles until I got to the end of the bike path and I started to slow down. I saw Mark and Connie on their bikes, then Larry. I ate a GU and washed it down with some water. Then I started slowing down to 9-minute miles and it was tough to even keep that pace and then I slowed to a 10 minute mile pace. Then I hit the hill by the Vons store and felt like I hit the wall. I knew I should conserve my strength – so I started walking. I took some water, then splashed some water on my head, and looking at my pace and looking at my time and how far I had to go and I did some quick math – I knew that 9:30’s wouldn’t cut it. I started to see my PR slip away. But I was determined not to leave anything out on the course. I didn’t need to pace myself and I had nothing to save myself for. If I was going to do it – I had to do it now.

So I fell back on my Chi running skills and leaned forward as much as I could and really cranked up my arm swing. At the top of the hill – I dropped below 9-minute miles and I knew that I may have a chance at getting my PR. I started running behind some kid – she must have been 12 or 13 – she had these huge feet and her shoes were way larger and way out of proportion to her body – and I ran behind her for a while.

Then I really didn’t have anything left – and I wasn’t saving my energy for anything – with 2 miles to go – all I could do was just go all out. My total elapsed time was 1:30 at that point – so I calculated that if I could do 8:30’s – that would be 17 minutes for 2 miles – and that would put me in at 1:47 – so that’s what I focused on. So I ate my last GU, drank some water, and pushed on. This is how we do it.

But I just couldn’t get there. I checked my Garmin and the best I could do was 8:35 or 8:45. Then I would push a little harder and get down to 8:10 or 8:20 for 20 or 30 yards – but I couldn’t hold it and I would have to slow down to an 8:45 or 9 minute pace or so. I took another Enduralyte and drank a swig of water and knew that that would be my last drink until I finished. And I knew that after that last left turn – there was a good downhill – and with gravity and the crowd noise – I could speed up and I thought that might do it as well.

Then I just quit looking at my Garmin the last mile or mile and a half. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to look at that stupid Garmin and see how much further I was falling behind. In my mind – my Garmin ceased to exist. I just focused internally and I made sure my posture was good. I leaned forward as much as I could. I picked up my feet as fast as I could. This is how we do it. I cranked up my arm swing, made sure I maintained my cadence, and just focused on pushing as much as I could. I made the last left turn, heard the crowd noise, and let gravity pull me down that last part of the course. I lengthened my stride, opened up my hips, and let my legs kick out behind me and I flew down that hill. Then I saw the finish line, I was about 20 or 30 yards away – and I looked up at the clock – and it said 1:49 and I didn’t want to look at the numbers after it. I had this sinking feeling down deep inside. I didn’t make it. I didn’t want to look up and see the clock click over to 1:50.

So I kept my head down, I crossed the line – then I remembered – hey – I’ve got to stop my Garmin – and I was about 15 yards past the finish line and I looked down – and it said 1:48:48. I saw it click over 1 more second – and I shut it off at 1:48:49. I did it. I really did it. I didn’t beat my previous PR time by a whole lot – I was shooting for 1:45 or 1:46 – but a PR is still a PR. And I felt so relieved and happy and glad and satisfied. I’ll take that 1 minute. (I checked my official time on the web site – I finished at 1:48:37 so those 15 yards past the finish line were about 11 seconds).

And I saw John. He was waiting for Jennifer. I said hi to John, and then I felt sick to my stomach. This was the first time I’ve ever felt like that at the end of a race. And it’s the only time I pushed that hard at the end of a race either. That last mile and a half I went all out and gave it everything I had and then some. I thought I was going to hurl and I wanted to make sure I didn’t splatter on anyone – this is so NOT how we do it – so I leaned over the rail but I didn’t puke.

Then I did some calf stretches and quad stretches leaning against the rail, and I started to feel better. Then Jennifer finished around 1:55. John had finished in 1:44. This was Jennifer’s first half marathon and she was pumped up. We got our medals, went through the crowd, and got back to the Beach Runner area. Walking it off and drinking some water made me feel O.K. again. I was so spent. I left nothing out there. Going through my Garmin – my average pace was 8:12.

And there were no runners at the Beach Runner area. So I took off my fuel belt, sat on the grass, and started stretching. I was a little sore and tight. I really pushed it the last few miles. Then Alicia showed up. I asked her how she finished and she said she got a PR – 1:45 and I congratulated her and I hugged her. Then Jennifer and John showed up and we hung out on the grass for a while. More people started trickling in. Don White showed up – he was fired up – he finished at 2:02 and that was 5 minutes faster then his previous PR. We did a lot of runs together this summer and he’s been working on his speed. Then a lot more people started arriving and the area was getting crowded. Christy and Marie showed up and I high-fived them. This was Marie’s first half marathon and she was so happy. Then Michele Pusatari showed up. And it was my turn for a massage – so I was worked over by two people at once – heaven – and that felt great. Claudia was on the table next to me. I finished stretching and I was looking for Joe and Cecilia and I found them. I knew Joe was ill the week before but he managed to grind out something like 1:56 or so. Cecilia finished a little bit after that. I grabbed some pizza and a beer and sat around and ate and drank and felt fantastic. Life was good. And I had lots more high fives, fist bumps, and hugs. And it was such a gorgeous day.

Then I saw Matt finish and that was inspirational. Matt did his first marathon last year and finished around 3:20 or 3:25 – which is unbelievable for a first marathon. We ran together a lot in the winter program training for Catalina. But he wanted to qualify for Boston – and he had to finish around 3:15 or so. For 26 miles!!! And at a pace that was about 1 minute per mile faster than I ran my 13 miles at. I think someone said he finished in 3:10. Not only unbelievable – that is just crazy – but he did it. He was tired. Laura was happy for him, too, as we all were.

Steve Mackel had a PR – I think he took about 10 minutes off of his best marathon time. Jake finished his marathon in less than 4 hours – a first for him. Way to go Jake! And of course, he wasn’t wearing a shirt. And he didn’t wear a shirt at Catalina, either. 50 degrees outside and no shirt. Go figure. Jake – you are a wild man!

Then I was walking around and talking with so many runners and asking them how they did and how they felt. I talked with lots of first timers who said they felt great. More high fives, fist bumps, and more hugs.

I’ve been with Beach Runners since the beginning. This was my fourth Long Beach Marathon/Half marathon with Beach Runners, and my 7th race in total (2 Buffalo runs and the Catalina marathon) with Beach Runners. I’ve met a lot of great people and made a lot of friends here. There is something really special about what we’ve got here – and I’m glad I’ve been able to be a part of it.

This is what we do.
This is how we do it.

This is who we are.

George – SoCalRunning.com, Beach Runner Mentor


2 Responses to “Long Beach Marathon Race Report and Why People Train with the Beach Runners”

  1. Dee on October 18th, 2008

    Congrats, George! Great race report. Thanks for sharing it. You are an inspiration!

  2. George White on October 20th, 2008

    Dee –

    Thanks for the feedback.