Marathon eve


I made pancakes for breakfast and learned that they don’t come out too well if made with almond milk.

I added songs from my LA-centric playlist to the iPod Shuffle and listened to news podcasts while avoiding the morning rain.

I ate some sopa de fideo with potatoes and chicken (#carboloading like a Mexican).


I drove out to my mom’s house with Sean to attend the annual fundraiser to benefit a Tijuana orphanage. I put up the signs with the menu I made before. It included carne asada tacos, enchiladas (chicken or cheese), pozole (chicken or pork), pupusas (cheese or revueltas), tamales, rice and beans.

I found more marathon toilet paper.

I went to Mass at my home parish, St John Vianney. I got emotional and couldn’t suppress the tears when the assembly sang the refrain to an hymn called “We Will Rise Again:”
We will run and not grow weary
For our God will be our strength
And we will fly like the eagle
We will rise again

Yeah, that’s the kind of hymn I want to hear on the eve of a marathon. “We Will Rise Again” has become a theme of sorts for SJV as the community rebuilds from last year’s fire that destroyed the beautiful church.

Dad's in the band

I returned to the party, now packed with the band (dad on the bass) and lots of people eating, dancing and trying to keep warm. Papá Chepe and I danced to a cumbia — just one, gotta keep the legs fresh — and got the party started. Despite being the eldest person there at 91, he’s still one of the first people out on the dancefloor.

A present from grandpa?

I ate tacos, enchiladas and rice and hung out with my cousins. My uncle asked me if the marathon would be canceled because of the rain. Nope. They all wished me luck before I left later.

My new favorite t-shirt

I showed off the t-shirt Sean bought me at the expo. I think it’s my new favorite t-shirt.


I left the party and returned home. Got things ready for tomorrow, checked the weather for the 13th time and studied my strategy again.

I’m ready…


LA Marathon goals: Blind ambition reconsidered

In normal procrastinator fashion, I didn’t have a race strategy until a few days before the race. I’ve been thinking about and mulling over two questions:

  1. Should I be gutsy and go for a sub-4?
  2. Should I be prudent and shoot for something around 4:06?

After a lot of over thinking (see below), I have a some goals and a plan. Skip to the end if you don’t care to read how I got overly confident and then got realistic.


I haven’t mentioned the possibility of a sub-4 on my blog, but it’s been in the back of my mind since December when I PR’ed at the Holiday Half. As soon as I got home, I did what most runners do and plugged my new PR in to the McMillan calculator. The results:

I didn’t think too much of that predicted marathon time as I wasn’t even sure I’d run LA. I’m also well aware that while it’s a great training tool and was only 3 minutes off for my first marathon, McMillan is an imperfect predictor. Lots of things can happen in training and on race day.

A few weeks later, I decided to run the marathon and told my coach, Marc, that I wanted to run <4:09. I picked that time based on the McMillan predicted finish using my Pasadena half result (1:58:32). I definitely wanted to PR and shave several minutes off my time, but I also wanted to get to the starting line healthy.

I’ve had a great, albeit short, training cycle. I’m happy with my recent race performances, hit the prescribed times in my speed work, got in most of my runs, added in strength training and some cross training. I ran hills and did some good — and really crappy — long runs. The only thing I hadn’t done was set a marathon goal pace and get used to it. Whoops.

Responsible Me wants to go with a more conservative time between 4:06-4:10. Gutsy Me wants to shoot for the sub-4 McMillan and other calculators predict. Marc thinks I should go for a 4:06/9:24 pace which he got by doubling my half PR and adding 20 minutes to account for the hills.

Smart, but the sub-4 was still in the back of my mind. I checked out Greg Maclin’s course specific pace bands recommended by my friend Scott. Dude is speedy. The stadium to the sea course is net downhill but has some formidable hills, especially on tired legs at miles 17-18.

I downloaded Maclin’s trial version and entered a 3:58 goal for a 9:04 overall pace. The individual mile paces are all over the place. On downhill portions it’s ~8:45, flatter ~9, on the hills it’s about ~9:35. Maclin’s paces made a sub-4 goal look less intimidating. Maybe even doable? You know, discounting the fact that speedier runners with half marathon times in the 1:40s have struggled to attain a 3:5X finish.

I was tempted to change my non-plan for Sunday and shoot for the sub-4. After all, I’m not planning to run another marathon this year. Next year might be out of the question too.

Then logic set in. I didn’t train for a sub-4. Trying to do that on Sunday could blow up in my face and leave me feeling miserable on San Vicente in the final five. I really don’t want to relive my Long Beach experience where I had a great first half, slowed down but was still okay until mile 18, and went off the rails after that. Of course, I can run conservatively and still have a bad race.

When I originally talked to Marc about going for a sub-4, I told him I wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t make that goal and blame him. But I will be upset with myself if I go out too fast, can’t hold it and am way off a B or C goal.

After over thinking it — I had a lot of downtime at work this week — I finally had my strategy down.

The race plan: run the first half conservatively (~9:24 pace for a <4:06 finish) and then step it up a notch in the second half if I’m feeling good.

A goal: <4:06
B goal: <4:09
C goal: <4:23, PR

If you want to track my progress on Sunday morning you can follow on twitter (@cindylu) where my 10K, 20K, 30K, 40K splits and finish time will be posted. You can also sign up to track runners (I’ll post the links in the comments since editing in WP is weird). My bib number is 10676.


Five letters and four words

Inspired by the LA marathon

I went out for an easy five miler this evening. It was my first time out of my apartment and away from my laptop for more than 10 minutes. I needed that run after spending several hours trying to make progress on my dissertation and only have a few pages to show for it.

The run was good. Even better, as I ran near the local elementary school I heard a man call out, “Good luck on Sunday!”

Those four words snapped my attention away from the podcast playing on low volume through my earbuds (Slate’s Culture Gabfest). I had just a moment to yell back, “Thanks!”

I’m not sure he heard me as he drove in the opposite direction.

As I continued my run, I wondered how he could tell I was training for the LA Marathon. Maybe he had just seen signs about road closures a few miles north in Beverly Hills and the race was on his mind. I thought about how those four words were much better than January’s drive-by egging. I thought about identity (again, back to the dissertation) and how being recognized by others is part of identity development. I’ve labeled myself as a runner for a couple of years, but today a stranger saw me and figured I was running the marathon on Sunday. I wasn’t even wearing the traffic cone orange 2011 LA Marathon tech tee. I had plenty of time to over think those four words as I ran for another half hour.

My drive-by well-wisher probably just wanted to offer some encouragement.

It worked.


Rainy race revisited

Approaching the finish line

Last year, I ran the LA Marathon in a fierce storm. I was wet and cold for over four hours, but I didn’t complain even when I had to stop at an aid tent for a band-aid for my bloody ankles. The band-aid came off after five minutes.

The rain made the race more interesting, the chafing worse, and the post-race period awful. In hindsight, it wasn’t that bad running through rain. I felt like badass for running through this. (Afterward was a whole different story, I was miserable. It took me a long time to feel warm again even after changing in to dry clothes and drinking some tea.)

It was good to experience. I don’t want to do it again, but I might have to.

Weather for the LA Marathon

I checked the 10-day forecast on Friday. I laughed when I saw this. It can’t be as bad as last year. I’d rather have this than lots of sunshine and predicted highs in the 70s and 80s like it’s been recently.


Joshua Tree National Park trip


While a bunch of Angelenos were all excited about a rock from Riverside County making a very slow trip to the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA), Sean and I decided to go to Riverside County and see some more impressive rocks… and trees.

Making pictures

In the middle of the week, I suggested taking a trip to Joshua Tree National Park to celebrate our second anniversary. A few things made it attractive: neither of us had visited; it’s close (2 hours is close in Southern California); it’s inexpensive; and it’d offer lots of great views/sites to photograph. About the first one, I’ve been to the Coachella Valley and Palm Desert several times with friends and family but I’d never been to the park. My Mojave Desert camping experience had been limited to Kern River. Sean was down.


We headed out Sunday morning and arrived in Joshua Tree early in the afternoon. Our first stop was at the visitor’s center to get more water and some maps. Our plan for the day: lunch at the Hidden Valley picnic area; exploring the Hidden Valley nature loop; and then hanging out at Key’s View until sunset.

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