…It’s like another perfect day. I love LA!… I love it! I love it! I l…ove it!
Randy Newman’s familiar voice blares as runner after runner crosses the start line of the 32nd Annual Los Angeles Marathon with goose bumps adorning their skin from excitement and the early morning chill. But… before we arrive at my favorite start line in the world, let’s go back in time…
Like Randy’s lyrics, It was another perfect day in LA for me. Can you tell I love living in Los Angeles County? Business as usual in my still-newish neck of the woods…
Shoot! What if I oversleep? I can’t oversleep. You didn’t oversleep last time, remember? You’ll be fine… You set your alarm. M (my husband) set his alarm. Just go to sleep… STOP THINK…-ING! You’re making me anxious, la-dy!
My lovely husband was reading (trying, really, nobody could read in peace with marathon-stress-ball for a wife) next to me. I kept checking WAZE, ensuring marathon morning was programmed with plenty of time to get ready and arrive at great-wonder-of- the-world-awe-inspiring Disneyland. You know by Disneyland, I mean, Dodger Stadium, right? I kept hearing a wise voice, “…. Honey, you need to sleep…” I LOVE the man! I won’t make you nauseous or tickle your gag reflex by gushing about him, here, but the man deserves an award for phenomenal-awesome-badass-etc.-etc.-husband!
I think I slept two full hours. I kept getting up to check the time. My alarm was set with a goofy message for a quick pump up, but I was up and dressed when the goofy message said hello, lady.
I received a lot of sighs and “…how can you be this awake at 5. AM?… Let’s hope you can keep up this energy…” After a morning performance of “Soak Up the Sun”a la Sheryl Crow with my moves to serenade their groggy start to a veeeeery long morning and afternoon, even they were humming and singing about soaking up the sun on the way to Disneyland (Dodger Stadium).
Morning routine went dandy. No delays or mishaps. The non-marathon runners felt the crisp, chill in the still dark morning. But, the freezer outside our front door felt like a nice warm oven to one excited marathon runner. Ahhhh, what a morning. And my beautiful trees are beginning to flower. I get to see these beauties all along our neighborhood in spring, summer, fall, and in winter, too, except there are no leaves or flowers, obviously.
Ok, ok, you can be jea-lous… If you’re a Dodger fan or National League, non-Giant’s fan, who also likes the best baseball team in the world, aside from my son’s, you can be jealous…, now.
Mile 1, 2, 3-Pretty easy peasy.
Ha! That’s funny. That little beat sounds familiar. I know I’ve heard it before. Of course, I’d heard it before, it was one of many morning reminders going off, but aside from that and a few male runners turning a freeway entrance into a porta-potty, nothing out of the ordinary.
Bring on Mile 4….
Oh wee. This. Is. Not. Fun. No, stop thinking that. You did it, already, do it, again. You’re not walking, no way, NO… WAY, lady! Stop those thoughts. Switch your mindset, Karina. Ok, I did it , once, I can do it, again. I know I can. I know I can. I. Know. I. CAN! I thought as I ran to the beat of that mantra.
I was dreading this part since last year. During one of our Disney Concert Hall visits during Christmas time, as we drove up and down that hill, I said, “I am so not looking forward to running you!!… Darn you, hills, why don’t you want to be friends?!” Guess what? That feeling didn’t change, even right now, I still abhor that hill.
Interestingly, without intending it, the perfect person for this hill was Mile 4 dedication-person. Who was that? One of my favorite friends, aka, my sister’s best friend. I chose mile 4 for her because her birthday is in April. Boy was she perfect for that mile. K, you don’t know how much you helped me run, yes, run that hill, not once did I stop or walk it, I ran it because I thought of you and what you would say to me to keep trudging up and up, and up, and up. I did it! Your spirit and energy helped me run one of the most dreaded parts of endurance running and the LA Marathon.
Misery-Joy Loves Company
“Oh my … I did it! I ran that hill…” she yelled (she was wearing headphones) that and more, but I can’t recall verbatim. Her male companion replied, “See… those Sunday runs were worth it…” She was a complete stranger expressing euphoria at having run Mile 4 hill. I smiled and relished in her joy because I was feeling the same way, except, I had nobody to share it with at that exact moment.
So… , what did I do? Ran next to her, tapped her right mid-arm and said, “Great job on crushing that hill! I HATE hills, too!” Either she was caught off guard or I’m not very likable because she didn’t reciprocate my enthusiasm for her. Woops! Note to self: If someone is wearing earphones, skip the compliments. Tapping a stranger’s arm, even if you were super excited for her is not your typical behavior. It really isn’t. I have excellent boundaries, but I was really happy for her and when running a marathon I get a teeny tiny bit excited for all runners.
Ok, Miles 5 to In ‘n Out Burgers corner- Woop! Woop! Raise the Roof!
These were pretty much spent trying to get to family meeting me at that corner. And… ignoring what felt like super-early chafing stage. No. It can’t be. It’s probably my crazy mind. Just keep running. I ensured anti-chaffing lotion was applied liberally on my legs, it’s the only place I go crazy on application when wearing shorts. Good thing, I brought along a sample from one of the recent races. I got this. No. No mishaps, not today. No curve balls, I’m prepared for all possibilities. I have my Hermione runner belt filled with solutions.
Huge yay!!!!! I see them!!!!!! Ahhhhhh…. Yay!!!!! The sour-intense look I sport, often, while running or in deep thought turned to a giant smile. I think runners behind probably thought I was a tad koo-koo as I raised and waved my arm like I was eager to answer a question in an elementary classroom.
I jammed towards my AWESOME father-in-law for a hug and to wish him a happy birthday… Yep. It was his birthday and he woke up extra early and delayed his birthday getaway to support me, a-gain, with my equally AWESOME mother-in-law. Both are always present for my special moments. Isn’t it just poetic how both marathons they decided to wait near one of many homes away from home- In ‘n Out Burgers. They know how much I love food, especially, In ‘n Out.
Guess who was waiting there, too? One of my top favorite people in the entire universe. The phenomenal person who I have the great fortune of having for husband and best friend. Lucky girl. I know. I haven’t scared him away, either…, and, those of you who know him, you know he’s very selective (nice way of saying, he’s a tiny-bit-of-a-snob) and SMART!
Wow, blogging is eye opening. I just realized, I am fond of some snooty people. But, he’s a beautiful minded snoot. He gets a pass. Oh, and my online sister, I recently learned, she’s a snoot, too. Apparently, she doesn’t like fast food, but, she, too, has a beautiful mind and heart. Oh, wait, and my real sister, she can be a bit of a snoot, too, sometimes, but if she’s reading this, I’m only joking, you’re the BEST sister EVER! Ok, I guess, I do have an extremely diverse taste in people, I’m even fond of some snoots. Look at that, I’m a stand out gal!
After showering them with love, hugs and kisses…
You’re visible, half marathon mark. I see you. Uh huh. I was almost done with the first half. Visible signs letting Charity Relay Runners know their doom-joy was almost over made me realize I still had another 14 miles… Plus, the sign held up by a spectator on the course: “…you have 14.2 miles until your vacation starts” only made me realize how doomed I was. I joked with my awesome-marathon-runner friend about the possibility he might hear “inappropriate language” around Mile 20, but at that moment, I panicked a bit thinking I had verbalized my thoughts.
Wait. Did I say that? I heard a LOUD, “F–K” Simple. Straightforward. Pure rawness.“F–k.” No exclamation point, either. It. Was. A. Firm. F–k. Each letter and sound emphasized, like teaching a phonics lesson. I turn back to make sure it wasn’t me. I see a male runner looking up for less than a minute, but longer than a few seconds with the same expression I was feeling. Phew! Good thing it wasn’t me, plus that voice sounded manly. “…ah, I’m so sorry…” he said with an apologetic tone and expression upon seeing me turn back. I continue laughing, “no, it’s ok, I’m laughing. I’m laughing because I was thinking the same thing.”
I think I’m going to start wearing a shirt with the message: “I’m a HUGE dork!” because most people think I’m a snoot upon first impression, but you all know I’m the complete opposite. Guess what? We were running near the Laugh Factory when that happened. Isn’t that a funny coincidence?
Thank Goodness For Comedy
My sense of humor and love of laughter got me through another few miles. But… there’s alway a but with me.
No. Uh-Uh. Stop thinking I didn’t plan. I did. Usually, when racing, not much thought goes into race day outfits. Plus, I have really cute taste in running and civilian clothes, so 97.68% of my clothes are stylish.
Marathon outfit is probably my least stylish. Experience says, marathon outfit should be comfortable, long run approved, and non-chafing. Checked off all those with my first and second marathon, but, here is how this outfit was chosen and why it was a problem.
- The shorts and leg compression sleeves were a MUST because both were gifts from my husband. They remind me of him. He can’t be at all stops, so wearing his gifts feels like he’s running with me. Plus, I ran in the shorts and compression sleeves on long runs without any problems.
- The initial, planned, outfit looked much better in my mind, but when setting everything out the night before, I decided to try it on and, nope, all I could think of was how much I resembled a pink lemonade from Islands. While I like Islands, I didn’t want to think of myself as a beverage or food item. While on double digit runs, all I crave is healthy food. Weird, right? Anything greasy makes me feel nauseous, even if I’m not smelling it, the mere thought turns and churns my stomach. With my thought process, I knew it would be a negative.
Ok, you get the idea. I went through several outfits and still kept thinking of odd connections, so this is when it pays to have super supportive siblings. This time it was my sister who received a slew of texts with pictures. I was going to send them to both, but it was Saturday night and what if my brother was on a hot date. Receiving a slew of female runner pictures would have been odd for him to explain. He’s accustomed to my slightly odd behaviors, but poor guy, why put him through that if he was on a date.
With the help of my fashionista sister, after, initially, trying to get me to look stylish, the outfit was set, much less Punky Brewsterish than last year and chafe proof, too. Until… about mile 8 when burning sensation most runners dread said hello. I was meticulous about applying anti-chaffing cream on my legs. Na. Can’t be. Don’t worry.
Here’s the kicker, when I find running shoes, gear and clothing that works, I buy multiples of the same item. Pretty much most of my shorts look the same (different colors) because they’re all the Nike style I feel is perfect for me (Nike, if you’re reading this, come on, I deserve discounts for the free advertising). Aside from this marathon, I’ve run miles and miles in that same style with no problems. Marathon 2017 shorts were probably from an irregular batch. Makes sense I would get it because curve balls are a norm in my daily life.
Lady, I thought you had already run in your marathon outfit?
I did. But, remember, I often stop to write ideas when running. Clearly, doing that not only impacts endurance, pace and speed, but I realized a little too late my need to run and write impacts gear, too. Stop and go training doesn’t mimic marathon running conditions (non-stop running for multiple miles).
Good thing, LA Marathon is equipped with equally phenomenal volunteers and aid stations, Vaseline sticks galore were available from official LA Marathon stations and incredibly kind and supportive Los Angeles spectators who set up their own mini-aid stations. I have a ton to say about volunteers, spectators and the energy, but it will be in a different post/story.
Approaching Mile 20
When I checked my phone while waiting in the car for my husband and son, post-marathon (more on what they were doing in a different post), I saw the slew of messages and notifications on my phone. I’m incredibly lucky to have a dedicated and supportive network of awesome and beautiful people.
One of the messages was from my awesome-marathon-runner friend who ran the LA Marathon, last year. It would have been super fun to run it with him this year, but no…, he had to choose Mercedes Marathon for his winter marathon. Actually, it’s a good he ran Mercedes because I don’t think he would want to continue being friends if he ran next to koo-koo/odd/accident prone runner/person this year. Anyway, since he was tracking me, he must have noticed a slower than normal pace, so here you go awesome-marathon-runner friend, this is what was happening…
“ I wanna ( I usually don’t say wanna, I like to use proper English, but trust me, if you follow mish-mash training, you are not yourself on a marathon course) cry!!” is what I’m verbalizing here and at other non-captured professional photographer moments.
Men of My Life
I so needed to see my husband or brother or even better, both at the same time. I knew they would be somewhere, but where? Did my brother get called into work? I didn’t see him in Hollywood which is where he supported me last year. Maybe he’s going to the finish? That thought kept me going . I passed the area where my husband and son cheered for me at Stop #3, last year, but nope, nothing.
Pa pa l’americano
Awesome dancing beat.
Pa pa l’americano
Awesome beat again.
And, one more time, Pa pa l’americano, with the, you know, awesome dancing beat. At this point, I wanted to stop running and just dance off exhaustion. I love dancing to that song! The race organizers must have read my mind and asked the kind spectators, “hey guys, when Karina Stanley runs near you looking like death, play that awesome beat she loves!” I’m certain that’s what happened.
Ahhhhh, music and laughter, it can always lift my spirits…
Unfortunately, mish-mash marathon training makes it a little difficult to attain typical level of euphoria.
Again, an audible, “ I wanna cry…” and while I’m a fan of the late-George Carlin, I DO NOT speak like him. At all. Really. I don’t. My real life people will attest to that. In fact, they will be shocked to read this section because I look and speak mostly sweetness. However, I won’t mention the words I used, but my friend tracking me, who’s never met me in person may not be so fond of our friendship after what he heard through the tracking chip. Pretty sure…, now that you know I have a bordering on George Carlinish mouth when I follow a choose- your-adventure-marathon plan, you will ignore all my koo-koo questions, and if lucky, you’ll still be my friend.
Where is M (my husband) and my brother…?!… I so need a smile or laugh right now.
Finally! I see THE Man!
After over fifteen years of knowing the man, I’m still happy to see him. Not always, sometimes, he’s not one of favorite people, but 97%-99.2% of the time, I get giddy when I see him. “How are you doing?”, he asked with his beautiful smile. I gave him a bear hug and said, “ I wanna (see, I’m using improper English , again) go home with you…” He, of course, made me smile and, as always, showed confidence in me. I released the bear hold and started to run.
But, boy was I feeling hot and my legs and mind were Tired. Notice the capital T. SO, I turn back, “one more hug, I promise. I’m not letting go. Pl…ease…., take me home with you…” I was only being silly, of course, I was going to finish, even if I was the last person to cross the glory line, but those hugs and his voice were like having mouthfuls of energy chews, gels and coffee.
Caffeine Crash or Rush?
My husband’s voice and cuddles got me through more discomfort and exhaustion, but like a great caffeine rush, the crash is a loud thump! Th-um-p, I felt alright. Again, the look of what-the-heck-was-I-thinking-to-skip-long-runs was visible and, trust me, I started digging and pulling from the great ‘ol powerful human mind.
“Hey, R (his nickname for me)! I hear with a recognizable laugh and bright energy. As I’m pondering whether I heard my nickname or not, in jogs through the crowd of runners, a strong, gorgeous person and spirit towards me, followed by two younger shining stars and sunshine. Oh my word, do I adore my brother and nephews!!! Mile 23 was his mile and what did he do? He and my nephews waited as I approached Mile 23. Can you get a glimpse of why I’m constantly gushing about my brother? He and my two equally excited, proud, and inspired (both have expressed great interest in running a marathon) nephews ran with me for a few seconds after showering a koo-koo, exhausted mind and body with love, smiles, and, of course, laughter…
Hearing and seeing familiar voices and faces you look forward to all the time, and on marathon day, more than ever, felt like the old Visa commercials, “priceless.” “Oh wow! I love you guys! You don’t know how happy you guys are making me, I so needed you right now. I love you guys so…. much!!!!!. More hugs and kisses dispersed towards their beautiful smiling faces. “You got this, R…!! We’ll see you in Santa Monica at the finish… You got this.” he said with confidence as I hugged him and my nephews to set off for more miles of leg torture.
I’m NEVER doing this , again! For-get Boston! I’m just flying to Boston and I’ll run the streets of Boston. I so want to cry… NO, you’re not crying, you need to keep running. Don’t even think about walking. Don’t! No way! NO walking, Karina! People who love you are here to support you. They’re driving around in insane traffic and waiting in heat because they love you and support your crazy hobby. It’s not a hobby, it’s a healthy lifestyle choice. Ok, fine, lifestyle choice… This is what happens when you don’t follow your training plan. I told you…, but you didn’t listen. “Ahh, I’ll make it up.” Well, you’re making it up, alright. A lot more was reflected and processed, but it would require a book.
Thinking of my brother, still laughing at what he said and what he says or texts me almost daily kept me more pumped than exhausted. “Tell your legs to SHUT UP!” read the sign the woman on the wheelchair held on her lap. How did she know I needed her?
Women, all types of women, whether they know it or not, influence, motivate, and inspire me, daily. I often let them know, even if, they’re strangers. Unfortunately, because our culture is still mostly trying to separate instead of unite us, my compliments and comments towards women are often viewed as odd. I get awkward, “than-ks …”. But, I don’t take offense, anymore, because I will keep doing it with the hope more and more women realize we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and fans. I would love to see more and more women encourage and support instead of compete. We can learn and do so much more as a cohesive, “how can we help each other?”, instead of, “ how can I be better than her as a mom, woman, professional, athlete, artist, etc, etc.? team. This is one of the reasons I see Twitter as more positive than negative, the high percentage of encouraging and supportive commentary from woman to woman is beautiful to witness.
Thank goodness for downhill… “Awesome running…”, I hear from a kind police officer as my legs are feeling lighter. As I mentioned, I will write about the phenomenal support on course in a different post, but that officer’s words, we’re motivating. He wouldn’t have said that if he’d seen me a few seconds prior, forcing my mind to keep trudging without stopping.
Turning into shaded land, yay! I so need shade right now. Feeling like death, I keep telling myself to keep moving, NO stopping, Karina! and a ton more, but this post is already way long. While in my head, feeling like I’m on my death bed, but upright, and somehow still running, I hear a sweet voice, “Are you Karina?” Oh shoot! Who knows me here? “I’m Paria…” She said more, but like I said, I was ready to collapse and sporting major foggy brain at that point.
I know, for sure, one of you knows who she is, but for the rest of you, Paria is a gush worthy person. You all know gush worthy people, for me, MUST have a beautiful mind and heart. Boy! Does this woman practice what she preaches on her blog. Her blog is how I decided she was one of the people on my lengthy gush-worthy list (mostly “non-celebrity” people). If you haven’t read her blog: momontherunsanity.com, do yourself a favor and take a peak. You’ll love it. Her thinking is up my alley.
Anyway, there I was, ready to throw in the flag/towel (not really, it just makes the story dramatic. Ha! I was not quitting- NO WAY!), peeking inside my hippocampus and amygdala like I was looking through a pantry to get to a finish line that felt like another 26.2 miles away, I hear, “Can I run with you?…” Holy smokes! One of my favorite people on Twitter and writers just asked if she could run with me… Aside from running with my sister and nephew, a few weeks ago, I’ve never run a race with anyone on my gush-worthy list, so this was a nice surprise. Eat your heart out, supportive-marathon-runner friend-who’s-super-awesome-for-answering-all-my-odd-and-not-too-odd-questions! You could have met Paria, too… You missed out-big time… Is Mercedes, still, a better or equally awesome marathon, now? Huh? I just said that to you like Julia Robert’s character in Pretty Woman when she went back to tell the snooty Rodeo Drive salesladies they missed out- big time! But, I don’t think you’re snooty or should I?
Poor Paria. Poor Paria. P-oor Paria! As I reflect on how much I talked her ear off, I’m an even bigger of fan of her’s for not dropping off the course sooner. In my younger years, I was a huge fan of The Bachelor. It helped a lot with psychology courses. I often wondered what made the participants share and say a lot of what was documented for our viewing pleasure and displeasure, but I now understand. I think they were asked to run marathons following a mish-mash training plan before filming commenced because, poor Paria, I did not stop chatting and sharing… AND, she stayed with me the entire way until “the bandit” signs came up. As a major rule follower (unless, I disagree with it), I was trying to convince her to cross the finish with me. I even said, “We have to raise our arms because I’ve never done that..” Of course, being the awesome person that she is in real life, too, she expressed not feeling comfortable with crossing without having run the full marathon. She said a lot more kind words, but I can’t quote because I can’t recall verbatim. Yep, I know, she’s pretty darn awe-some, right?
I did one thing right with marathon training, I knew I wasn’t going to be shattering any Boston Qualifying records, this time, so the goal was to have fun and finish. I somewhat did both.
And, The Crowd Goes Wild…
My fans were incredibly proud of their koo-koo, nut for running a Sub 5 hour marathon. As I approached the finish line, I saw the time was less than last year, but over 5, and I was beaming about that. But, I’d forgotten I crossed the start later than the first wave. Mr. Awesome-Possum-and-a ton-more husband, was beaming, too, when I reached him after crossing. I love the giant smile on his face, voice and eyes when he’s proud of me.
“I did?!” was my response when he told me he was impressed with my finish and rooting for me to finish in under 5. Way to go, girl! You SO rock! Those thoughts were for me and Paria. Why? Because we both rock. Her decision to run with me helped remove focus from tired legs. As I ran with her, my legs felt so light, I sprinted to the finish. Like I said, ladies, we, women, are each other’s BIGGEST cheerleaders and supporters. Had Paria not run with me, I still would have crossed the finish line, but, not in under 5 hours. In the course of minutes and a couple of miles, I was supported and encouraged by a fellow woman, mom, runner, writer, and so much more simply because she too believes our world is better when we lift spirits and minds. Paria, I am beyond thankful that you stuck with me and put up with my non-stop-who-knows-what-I-said-chatter. You’re a beautiful casing with an equally beautiful mind and heart. I’m a HUGE fan!
Maybe, if I didn’t have an incredibly supportive family, I probably would have followed the original training plan, but when people drive around in already crazy traffic, turned major chaos on LA Marathon day, to simply see you run past them for a few minutes and they’re not runners, so they don’t understand the internal benefits and joys like runners do, you can see why I often skipped or changed up my plan. Trying to balance being a great mom, wife, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend 99.9% of the time is not possible, especially, when Boston dreams are thrown in the mix, but seeing my family and receiving support from family and friends who weren’t in the vicinity of the course, but in my thoughts, lets me know why I continually choose the role of mom, wife, sister, aunt, daughter and friend over all others.
Marathon Words of Wisdom
Current-non-marathon-running-friends, if attempting a marathon, YOU CAN DO IT! No joke, YES, YOU CAN! Absolutely, you can run a marathon (but, let your doctor know when you decide, remember, safety first). Like many marathon runners may have said to you, already, it seems impossible and unattainable, but like anything in life, if you want it and work for it, a dream becomes reality. However, please, please, please follow the tried and true training plan, not a combination of a real one and a make-it-up-as-you-go. I followed a real plan for my first marathon.
That marathon, is a whole different post, well, maybe. But, that marathon was even more intriguing. Maybe… one day… you will know what was happening on the course and in my mind that time.
One thing I can tell you about the first one is: it was another perfect day! I love LA! I love it! I love it! I LOOOOOOVE it! And, I LOVE my family and friends for their continual support no matter how koo-koo my endeavors seem or are, or both.
To be continued…
For today’s epilogue, I am going to share marathon pictures snapped by the professionals from MarathonFoto. While I want to support them, I’ve been waiting on them for almost a week (between emails and phone calls) to purchase pictures. They kindly agreed to give me 30% off which is an excellent discount. I wasn’t sure which package to order when I spoke with the representative, and since they don’t have discount codes, she asked me to take my time selecting my package, call back and the discount would be applied. Well, I called back, and what do you know, she forgot to make a note. Apparently, I need to wait and speak with that specific representative, but since she hasn’t returned my call, yet, and I really want to share this post with all of you, I’m going to rebel and share the sample pictures. As soon as I receive a call back, I will replace with the official photos.
Here you go, friends… The external look captured at various points of my mental journey… See if you can spot when I was cursing up a four-letter-word storm…
One more thing, I don’t have running pictures , I have video, my husband doesn’t like snapping pictures, but he is fond of video. Anyway, that’s why I didn’t include running pictures in the body of the post, aside from the Paria section.
Warning: I look nothing like my marathon hero, Ms. Awesome-Queen-of-Marathon-Running, Des Linden. But, I really like you guys and wish many of you lived near me, so I share the good and not so good with you. Ok, ready?
The Marathon Mess- Starting… Karina Stanley
Added… Here are the pictures I purchased: