Last month, my running buddy was sending me half marathon announcements and I was not enthused and so I said “hey how about a 10k” and she said “OK”. I picked one – the Hollywood Half Marathon has a 10k running at the same time. We sign up. A couple of days before the race we find out it start at 6am. Sunrise is at 6:30. Ugh. Really?
Then, I find out there is no race bib pick-up on race day and we have to go to a Hotel near Universal in the Valley (aaargh!) to pick up our race bibs. Heather convinces me to go early and right off there is heavy traffic on the 405 and the 110. I love LA except when I get on the freeway. Parking at the expo costs $15. The traffic on the way back is totally messed up with two separate accidents on the 405 – the second being quite spectacular with a truck balanced on top of the concrete dividers with no other car in sight. How the heck….? Anyway, we are exhausted by the return trip and I am thinking “Why did I sign up for this?”
I get up at 4 am race day and pick up Heather at 430 AM. I had Brazilian food the night before and my stomach was squirrelly. We find a parking lot near the finish line and walk to the start line about a mile away. Its dark and all the street people are snug in their beds along the street but some of them were waking up. I put my tough don’t mess with me face on and walk briskly by making sure to keep Heather close – she is very small, I worry. The smell of urine is strong and general urban garbage odor wafts down the harsh city streets. We get to Hollywood Blvd and walk down towards start line. I am reading the stars on the sidewalk and I see Lucille Ball’s star – I immediately scream “RICKY”. Heather jumps. Ok so it was a little early for that kind of thing.
|Heather at the start line|
First - of course - we needed to pee. So, we wait in lines for the porta potty. Now I must say I have down a lot of races and so I am familiar with the porta potty experience but they were hellish at the race. What the heck– we were there early – why were they already so nasty? I should have just peed on the street – clearly most of Hollywood already does! We get to the start and realize our start corral is way back – 17? WTF? – I don’t how they have it organized but we move up – but I think we are still way back judging from the type of runners that surround us.
The race starts and they put a minute and half between releasing the next wave. We are in wave 11 and finally get started. The runners are bunched up and there are LOTS of casual runners who are already walking a quarter mile into the race – in the middle of the road with 3 of their friends shoulder to shoulder! Heather and I are weaving thru the crowd and it is hard work – we are running hard but it’s hard to get headway in the crowd. It’s not fun but I figure let’s just grunt out the first mile – it will get better. But it did not – and it was exhausting to beat thru a heavy crowd trying to maintain race pace for miles. It finally improved around mile 3 but it was still a lot of people. And not by much – if I am still passing Clydesdales and Athenas by mile 3 – what the hell corral were they in – the elites? Also, because of the slowness of the crowd, I felt like I couldn’t get in my pace. Dodging the 5 women running very slowly shoulder to shoulder dressed as Marylyn Monroe takes energy (I don’t get the costume runners) – not to mention the people who just stop running and walk in the middle of the street. I started running by run/walking and there is a certain amount of polite protocol that goes on when you do this in a race. You move to the side for your walk. You look behind you before you just stop. When some says coming thru – you make room and let them go thru and you don’t make snarky comments. Really - I am freaking sorry that I am running but I heard it was a race.
|Ready to roll...fake smile!|
Oh – Hollywood Blvd is not a scenic route unless you think strip clubs and closed bars are pretty. Oh the strip clubs were open….. I have to say that so many times on runs when I am tired or feeling down – looking at something beautiful just gets my brain in a positive place. I run the beach a lot – so the ocean, the sky and the mountains keep my eyes lifted and my chin up. The butterflies keep me smiling. Hollywood Boulevard has none of these. I mutter to Heather “thank god we aren’t going 13 miles on this.” In fact, racing with a friend is really important in a sucky race. Heather kept an easy pace – I am on her tail but I don’t feel any rhythm and I am cranky. The last mile she picks it up hard and takes off and I just hold my pace till the last half mile when I start my sprint. I think I could have started sooner but it wasn’t my legs – it was my head.
I did have the pleasure of seeing the lead male in the half marathon pass me at mile 4 – and yes he had to weave in and out of the crowd but he looked to be doing a sub 5 minute pace. The lead woman came in a couple of minutes behind – totally ripped and very fierce looking. Hummm. I thought that’s almost double my speed – oh well and then I started thinking about what I would have for breakfast so I could keep my legs moving by promising them pancakes.
I did ok for my age group (4th place) but I feel like it was a hard ok. I know if the race was not so hellish at the beginning I could have done 20 to 30 seconds better per mile. They gave us a medal – really for a 10k? Heather was there at the finish line cheering me thru….the finish line was packed – people were just stopped and it was a hard beat to get out of the slot. I can’t remember for a while where the car is parked and we walk the wrong way before turning around. I am feeling grumpy. My leg muscles cramped going down a curb and I shout. Heather says “wow you are loud.” I start laughing because she has known me for a couple of years and – yes I am loud. Suddenly I feel better – what the hell – it was an interesting experience. We decide to head back to the beach and home to have breakfast at the local yummy breakfast diner.
While we drive, we make a list of race requirements for the future. Pretty – like the Malibu Half or Surf City or Agoura Trail Half Marathon or any Santa Monica run. 10ks – do them only if they are near home. The drive all the way to Hollywood for a 10k?….no – not fun. Oh yeah – fun. Good race organization - research this. On the Hollywood Half – I heard they ran out of cups at the water stops for the Half Marathoners and people were pissed. Plus the wave starts were messed up. And – if it’s less than a half marathon then same day bib pickup is a must. Free Parking should be a consideration – between bib pickup and race day parking – it was $25 in parking fees. The race entry was $50 and the gas – well I have a Prius but really – we are getting close to a $100 for a 10k. Ummm – no not worth it.
I must qualify all my whining about this race and mention that a lot of people were running this race to raise money for charity like Youth Programs in LA or for Autism Research or even in memory of people who have died. When you run for a cause – it’s a whole different thing. You could run thru a sewer and it doesn’t matter. I ran my first marathon for Aids Project LA – ok so I ran it in Hawaii. It was hard but I finished it because I was raising money. It wasn’t about me running or having fun – it was about trying to help. It’s a completely different vibe when you do that. Now – I just give directly or support others and just run because as a physical challenge for myself. I do the Hirshberger Pancreatic Cancer run in honor of my mom and friends and family contributed to that which was awesome. Let me tell you if your write MOM on your arm in marker - a lot of people will think it says WOW which is entirely cool.
|Post Race Breakfast - real smile!|
My husband is mystified – he says “why don’t you just run the beach for free?” I have been reading about impromptu unofficial races gaining popularity and I am starting to feel that maybe the way to go. Heather and I heard about some trail runners who meet and just run for an hour and then eat breakfast. I think we are in for that. So a new approach to running – less structured and more fun. And the place we run – it’s needs be scenic, natural and visually satisfying. My life outside means in nature – not the urine soaked city streets. I will never complain about Venice Beach again!