Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Swim through Los Angeles.....The Honda LA Marathon

26.2 miles in sunny California....a trip to Los Angeles.....sightseeing while running.....all for Team LIVESTRONGSign me up! 

Those were the thoughts that went through my head back in November when I was planning my RunningStrong for Hope race schedule.    Flash forward 5 months....and a major reality check.....monsoon-like rain and wind, chilled to the bone, and an extra 10 pounds in my suitcase when I returned home from the water soaked race clothes and shoes I wore during the race.

After months of training and raising over $4,000 for LIVESTRONG, I headed off to Los Angeles.  I was joined by the LIVESTRONG Chics - my two dear friends that take turns doing the swim portion of a local triathlon relay we compete in to raise funds for LIVESTRONG.

The weather forecast was none to pleasant.....50's and rain predicted all weekend.   Hmmm....not the vision I had in my mind back in November. (check out the videos at the end of my post to see what the weather was really like)

Sunday morning started off with a very early wake-up call....3:45 order to catch a shuttle to Dodger Stadium from Santa Monica, a very short 26 miles away (it seems quite a bit shorter driving the distance).  A very seamless transition which is often a stressful start to marathon morning.
The LIVESTRONG Chics at Dodger Stadium before the start

Once at Dodger Stadium, it was off to find the Team LIVESTRONG Suite - a very cool perk the marathon provided for charities.  Instead of sitting in the hallways or stands of the stadium as rain came down intermittently, I was in a nice warm suite with the company of some truly amazing people.

This was by far the highlight of my marathon experience.....meeting the other members of Team LIVESTRONG.  We had never met one another prior to this morning; all had different journeys that brought us to that suite at Dodger Stadium but we were all there for a common cause - to show cancer who was boss.

Some of us were cancer survivors, some caregivers, others had loved ones stolen by cancer.....cancer had impacted each and every one of us....and we were inspired by one another.   Each had our own personal reasons for taking on 26.2 miles but cancer was the villain in each story. 

Friendships were formed in that suite during the early morning hours of March 20th.....more LIVESTRONG friendships - always a favorite outcome to every LIVESTRONG event I have attended.

Eventually it was time to say good-bye to all my fellow cancer fighters and head down to the starting corrals.  A group of us headed to the start together and three of us actually ran together for sometime.  The goal was obviously to get to mile 26.2 however my short-term goal was set on mile 17 where the LIVESTRONG crew was waiting for us to pass by.
Nice, dry and still smiling at the start
The rain started almost simultaneous with the start of the race.  It was on and off for the first 10 miles - at times drizzling and other times a down and out downpour.  But, at least I wasn't hot!  My main concern after training in the Illinois winters was how I would run in the heat and blazing California sun.  This obviously wasn't a concern.....and actually I had run my 20 mile training run in very similar conditions...thanks Mother Nature! (see On the Road to LA...Team LIVESTRONG Training for the LA Marathon)

I knew there would be a few hills.....but I certainly wasn't prepared for the number of hills I encountered in LA.  In hindsight, I should have pulled back a little in the first half to save my legs for the second half (which wasn't nearly as hilly) but I charged up those hills.....and unfortunately my quads were feeling those hills in the last 8 miles.  Note to self - when training on a treadmill, occasionally hit the incline button.

One very cool memory of this race was all the people standing out in the pouring down rain volunteering at water stops and others lining the course cheering.  As I was running along through Beverly Hills - drinking in the sights - I happened to notice someone wearing a Ride for the Roses jacket.  Wait a second.....I know someone from RFTR that lives in the area.  So I turned and shouted his name.....and amazingly enough it was him!  How bizarre!  A great surprise and an opportunity to catch up for a few moments as my Movember friend ran alongside me for a few moments.  At mile 22, I heard my name and turned to see a friend I have known since I was in grade school  She stood out in the pouring rain waiting for me to pass by......and then stayed out there to wait for the other LIVESTRONG Chics to pass by as well.  Her mother was one of the individuals I was honoring on my back during this little "jog."

Speaking of those I honored, check out the RunningStrong for Hope tribute wall to see the names of those that journeyed through the rain along with me in spirit.

Eventually I finished.....I really wasn't in any hurry.  Between the weather and the hills, I really adjusted any expectations I had to get a great I took extra time to enjoy the sights, chat with others along the course, stop to visit with the LIVESTRONG crew and my friends cheering.

As I crossed the finish line, I began to choke up a bit as I remembered why I was tackling this race to begin with.  I whispered to myself as tears began to form ....."This is for you Brian."  

I may have been a bit soggy and sore, but in the long run, the steps I took through the rain, puddles and wind were nothing compared to the challenges Brian, Mom, Dad and my sister Janet - along with the 28 million worldwide living with cancer - endured as they fought a great battle against cancer.  This was a small sacrifice I made on one rainy day to honor the lives of those stolen from my life.

I am forever grateful to all the support my friends have provided me with not only your monetary donations to LIVESTRONG but the emotional support during my preparation for this race, during the race.....and most importantly over the past 7 years.

Another 26.2 miles down.....147.6 miles to go.

Next up.....the Illinois Half Marathon in Champaign, IL on April 30th.  I hope to raise another $1,000 for this race.
Click here to donate to support Barb's RunningStrong for Hope benefiting LIVESTRONG

LIVESTRONG everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, you are an inspiration. What a tough race. Congratulations!!!!