So, this past Friday in February 2017 saw Los Angeles get pummeled by the biggest rainstorm it has seen in years. Streets and sidewalks were flooded over, old trees were battered, branches were torn off and left on the road for cars to run over or hopefully swerve around, and hydroplaning was not what it used to be. Turning on the radio, it was no surprise to hear the local station playing “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, but I kept praying for someone to play the Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine” for the sake of some much-needed irony.
Yes, this was the exact same weather I and so many others endured while running the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. It rained hard and the wind blew at us from the side to where hypothermia became a larger threat than heatstroke. The joke was we never ran the 2011 LA Marathon, we swam it. Heck, I joked I was somehow tricked into doing a triathlon instead of a marathon. Sometimes it is fun to run in the rain, but this was a huge exception.
The rainstorm which came down on us Angelinos happened the day before we Team to End AIDS runners were scheduled to run our longest run of the training season: 23 miles. As a result, I got more prepared for this run than usual. I got a new pair of Brooks running shoes, my red poncho which keeps me warm as well as dry, a new water belt which has two water bottles instead of four, and I had my Monsters University hat on as usual. The only thing I was missing was a new pair of compression tights which I really need to get before March.
Some people also took the time to put duct tape on their shoes to ensure their feet wouldn’t get wet. I should have thought of that, but anyway…
Well, the good news was the worst of the storm had pretty much passed us by when we arrived at Griffith Park at 6 a.m., one hour earlier than we usually show up because of this run’s epic length. There was a bit of drizzle, but nothing which we could possibly drown in. Regardless, the most dedicated T2EA runners could be counted on to show up as they are determined to participate come rain or come shine.
I’ve been through this training program several years now, but the 23-mile run always gets me especially anxious. I know I can do it, but I also know the agony I will be forced to endure once I am finished. Coach James reminded us this is our “celebration run,” and we should not treat this as a race in any way, shape, or form. Still, I knew it was going to be hard to celebrate once this run was concluded. Not impossible, but hard.
One thing I definitely kept in mind was to start off slow and not overdo it. It was in our best interest to save energy throughout this run as it is too frackin’ easy to burn out before we got to the halfway point. Also, it was highly likely we would hit “the wall” on this run more than ever before. “The wall” refers to the mental wall we eventually hit during the run where it feels like we can’t possibly run anymore. It doesn’t matter how big of a carbo load dinner or how many pounds of pasta we ate beforehand because we will hit the wall when we least expect it. The trick is to keep going because these 23 miles won’t run themselves, dammit.
For this run, we actually started out on Forest Lawn Drive. This surprised me as I felt the coaches had long since deemed this part off limits. It’s a dangerous stretch of road to run on, especially when it’s early in the morning, because of the blind corners we are forced to go around. There were points where we had to run single file because we have little warning of what could be coming around the curb. We were also running past a cemetery, and this threatens to serve as an omen of the most unwelcome kind.
But we did survive Forest Lawn Drive, otherwise I would not be here writing about this. The run took us through Burbank and Glendale where passed by such sights as Warner Brothers Studio, Disney Studios, and fast food joints with their burgers which are never as appealing as they look on those posters. When we passed mile signs indicating where we were at distance wise, I found myself saying the same thing, “That’s it?” For some bizarre reason, I thought I was going to complete this 23-mile run sooner than later. What the hell is wrong with me anyway?
We had a wealth of volunteers this time out, and they had plenty of water, Gatorade and other assorted goodies for us to fuel up on. I was keen on staying on top of my salt intake because last year, when I did this same run, I came out of it seriously dehydrated to where I was walking like a zombie out of a George Romero movie. Actually, it also didn’t help that I partied hard with a few Jack and Cokes afterwards. I eventually had to go to urgent care and get hooked up to an IV with fluids. Lesson learned.
I did end up eating a handful of Tostitos lime tortilla chips which had more salt in them than any chip I ever had in my life. My mouth was in shock for a few seconds to where I had to drink almost a whole bottle of water. Talk about an assault of the senses! I have never crammed that much salt into my mouth before. I’m not in a hurry to do it again.
During the last half of the run, I ended up falling behind everyone else which was a bummer. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but before I was able to catch up with my fellow runners. This time I was on my own, clinging onto an almost empty bag of Ruffles potato chips I got from the volunteers. It got to where I started to feel like Chevy Chase when he was running around in the desert and getting all delirious in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Granted, I wasn’t actually in the desert, and I wasn’t wearing my jacket as a hat and singing “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” but I had definitely hit that wall I was talking about earlier.
I wasn’t in immense pain, by my muscles were already very sore to where I wasn’t screaming out in agony, but instead just getting irritated over the fact I couldn’t run any faster. It started to feel like a dream where I was stuck in one place and couldn’t move any further. Whether it was Heather Langenkamp getting stuck on those stairs in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or Patricia Arquette caught in some jelly-like substance in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors,” I was desperate to increase my velocity before some crazed psycho with knives for fingers started coming after me for not running at my assigned pace.
I did have a map of the course with me and kept looking at it every five seconds. Of course, I lost it as it slipped out of my pocket without me even realizing it until much later. But by then, I knew where I was going, and this is even though I felt like Bugs Bunny and kept wondering if I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.
This training season has seen me become the slowest runner on the team. It’s almost embarrassing as I used to be faster than this, but in the end I did cross the finish line. I increased my pace as fast as I could as I came up to the finish line, and there were still many people there to cheer me on as I completed my 23 miles. After I was done, all I wanted to do was sit down forever. The first thing I should have done was stretch out my legs, but I didn’t have the patience to bother.
The coaches treated us with a feast of sandwiches which included roast beef, turkey with pesto dressing, veggie, and ham and cheese. I had one of each as those calories I had burned off needed to be welcomed back in one way or another. And yes, there was plenty of chocolate milk to go around. Us runners need chocolate milk to recover, almost a gallon it seems.
After all this running madness, I went home and crashed in bed for several hours. As I’ve gotten older, so to speak, naps have become more commonplace for me than ever before. It used to be impossible for me to nap during the day, now it’s far too easy for me to taking advantage of one. I’m starting to miss the days where I had boundless energy. Maybe I should start drinking coffee.
Do I feel good about this 23-mile run? You know what, I shouldn’t even be asking myself this question. I should feel good about it. I crossed the finish line to the delight of all the T2EA team who stayed to watch me do so. But I wonder if I can still cross the finish line with the same amount of gusto which I had in the past when it comes to marathon day. Here’s hoping I will when March comes around.
FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Thanks to the threat of me running with an oversized Eeyore on this 23-mile run, I went from having raised $729 to $1,044 in a week. After finishing this run, I finally reached my fundraising goal thanks to my brother Ed Mahoney and have now raised $1,129.70 towards AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA). But even though I did reach my goal, I still encourage you all to make a donation towards my efforts as every little bit helps those who can no longer help themselves. Even if all you can spare is $5, that will still go a long way. Just click on this ridiculously long paragraph to see how you can help.