A Choice To Make

At last year’s L.A. Marathon in March I completed the 22.7-mile bike tour event then walked the 26.2-mile marathon itself — with absolutely no training, but a heck of a bunch of resolve.

A phonecam photo set of marathon pix can be found here.

The bike tour is a piece of cake by itself. I’ve been doing it since its inception in 1995 and regularly cruise through it in no more than 75 minutes. The marathon last year was another matter. In perhaps worse shape than I’m in now I set out down Figueroa with the bazillion other participants and actually jogged the first mile. Felt pretty good actually, kind of like getting swept up in the current of a river. Somewhere near Staples Center I put the Whoa! to the Now! and walked the rest of the way. By Mile No. 10 in the Crenshaw District I was in agony. Muscle fatigue and cramps, blisters and chafing (I’ll say no more) just kept on getting worse, but I kept on going. The worst parts were near the end when the city’d begun opening up streets and allowing traffic to cross the route. There were several times where I had to come to a complete stop and wait, and it was the starting back up from a dead stop that was absolute agony.

As long as I could keep moving one foot in front of the other, I was fine. Even if it was at a “speed” of 1 mph. I just kept repeating “every step taken is one step closer to the finish” or something like that.

Eventually I crossed the finish line in 7:43 and change. And for as bad as I felt I was surprised that I’d finished it four minutes faster than the last time I’d done both the bike tour and marathon together (the latter with my friend Cybele) in 2003. It was jogging that first mile that had given me the edge, but man did I feel a whole lot worse the second time (the difference was in large part because Cybele and I actually devoted some time to training in 2003).

Cybele had been planning to do the marathon last year with me just as we’d done in ’03 (our goal was a 6:15 finish), but she had to bow out when she couldn’t devote the proper amount of time to getting conditioned for it (smart girl). I guess I stayed in it in part because I’m a cheap bastard and I’d already paid the outlandish entry fee (like $75!) and dammit I was going to get my money’s worth… even if it landed me in the hospital. But the larger motivation was to just do it as the ad slogan goes. Even with no training. None. And I did it. I moved my largess on a bike 23 miles and then walked it another 26. Crazy.

But now it’s decision time regarding this year’s editions of the L.A. Marathon and Acura Bike tour. Given last year’s results I know I can do it if I wanted to, but I’m no masochist. So brutalizing myself just for the sake of brutalizing myself doesn’t make much sense.

My ultimate goals are to first walk the course in six hours and then come back the next year and run it in four hours. Even if I cracked the whip and started a whole bunch of paced-walking to get me into better condition, I doubt if two months is enough time to get me set to cross that finish line as the race clock ticks 06:00:00. Soooooo, I’m gonna forego the marathon this time around, aim for 2007 and just do the bike tour — on The Phoenix, of course.

It’s just the right thing to do. I’m going to miss doing the marathon this year. It’s a great event and I love being involved, but the wiser thing to do is get involved only when I’m in the position and condition to enjoy it all the way through. So that means hello to my 12th-consecutive bike tour and seeyanextyear to what will be my fourth time as a marathon finisher.