The marathon was a while ago and it was a spectacular run. I wish I had sat down to recap sooner, but I had family in town and have continued training since.
WEEK LEADING UP TO THE RACE
I was beyond nervous or anxious. The only thing I kept thinking of was that I had been working for this for 6 months and all the hard work was going to boil down to my performance on one day. The thoughts that kept racing through my mind were along the lines of, “how am I going to make it over the hills…” and “how do I get through the park without losing my mind or losing steam” and finally, “what am I going to do when I hit “the wall?”” I think my resting heart rate for the entire week must have been exponentially higher than normal – I definitely felt more jittery than usual and much more on edge. I had made the conscious decision to completely cut out caffeine, alcohol, and coffee for the two weeks leading up to the race so my body felt relatively cleansed. The week was light when it came to running – I don’t think I did more than 3 or 4 miles on any given day. By the end of the week, I had so much energy built up that I felt like I was going to explode.
My dad decided to come out to San Francisco at the very last minute to cheer me on – it was unexpected, but it was a sweet gesture that I think only positively affected my performance.
On Friday, I took a long lunch hour to go to the expo – grabbed my bib, found a pink running hat so I would be easier to spot, and booked it back to the office. That night, we met up with a friend and her boyfriend for dinner at this nomnom place called Delarosa. We mentioned to the waitress that we were carboloading for the marathon and to our surprise, she brought out pretty much every appetizer we had not already ordered to our table – for free! How great is that? What is nice about this place is that the portions are not full-sized. They are perfect for sharing because you get just enough to appreciate the dish but are not left feeling overly stuffed so you can enjoy everything else! The only thing missing was a nice cocktail to wash it all down.
DAY BEFORE THE RACE
The day before the race, I woke up early to go on a one mile run to shake out my legs with the Lululemon Run Club. Obviously it was easy, but just enough to get out some of my craziness that had built up throughout the weeks of tapering. I spent the rest of the day lounging around the house, deciding what I was going to eat and spending time with my family. The day was filled with pre-race jitters and thoughts of how I was going to tackle this monster. I kept repeating to myself that I had trained and that I had to trust my training. Dinner for the night ended up being homemade lasagna courtesy of my boyfriend – and a lot of water. Surprisingly, I was able to turn in fairly early and fall asleep with no problem. Dundunduuuun!
Then it was time to wake up. I made me away around the apartment getting dressed, eating breakfast, applying my PaceTat, and making triple sure that I had everything. I spent a good portion of the night before making a list of all my necessities and making sure they were ready to go – but I was still paranoid that I was forgetting something. My dad, brother, and boyfriend all drove me to the start of the race where I was able to meet a friend at a group tent. We were also meeting one of my training partners there. He was an amazing person to run with – we really hit it off as runners and ran almost every long run together – I like to call him my personal pacer. After dropping our stuff off and hanging around for a few minutes just getting our plan together, we decided to start at the end of the wave.
It was amazing. My running partner and I started out nice and slow, found our rhythm, and trucked along. Few words were exchanged – when we got to the first hill, our easy breathing slowly turned to huffing and puffing, and we congratulated each other at the top. Then it was downhill and flat until after the Marina Green. A new addition to the spectators was a group of people that were honoring fallen veterans. They were lined up with American flags wearing blue and ringing cowbells. It was quite lovely and heart wrenching. My dad is a veteran, so I always get a little misty eyed with those things. At the end of their line we approached the second hill with starts to lead up towards the bridge and feels quite steep and long. We exchanged another “congratulations” at the top and kept on going. When we finally got the bridge, we realized it was a good idea to start when we did – it was practically empty and the pace that we had to keep was perfect. It wasn’t a clear morning – it was foggy and chilly, but it was still an awesome experience. Running the bridge never gets old for me, especially when I’m sharing it with other runners. So we ran and ran and ran. I saw a few other fellow trainees, gave a high five here and there, and just kept booking it to the turnaround. I remember thinking, “I feel great. This is going to be a good race.” We got off the bridge and began to approach Baker Beach and what we call Lincoln Hill. The first time I ran this portion this season, I remember feeling anxious about it and I had this unreal expectation of how long and how steep it was. But then I actually ran the darn thing and afterwards thought to myself, “that’s it? that wasn’t as bad as I had previously thought it was…” On the day of the race, I was feeling confident that I had the hill in the bag and I knew once I got to the top, it would be smooth sailing to the avenues. Running the bridge, like I remembered, was spectacular. It was foggy and chilly, and the pace that we were running ended up being perfect considering the amount of people on the bridge.
We finally got to 26th Avenue and I knew that at the end of the street, I’d be entering Golden Gate Park and it would be first place I’d see my family. After turning the corner onto Fulton, I saw my brother and boyfriend, but not my dad. A little piece of me panicked, but seeing them at that point gave me the push I needed to get through the park. We took a very quick bathroom break and kept trucking along. Somewhere along mile 18 we got separated and I ran into another couple of running buds. The next spot I was going to see my family was at the Conservatory of Flowers, and this was going to be where I would refill my water with fresh (cold) water, pop a Motrin (I know, I know – I shouldn’t do that), and have a quick snack. At this point, I was maybe 2 minutes from my realistic end-time goal, so I gave myself a good minute to regroup. Just as quick as I had stopped, it was time to start again. My legs were heavy and I just wanted to get to Haight Street. This is usually one of my favorite stretches because it is relatively flat and there are two decent downhills where I knew I’d make up some time. However, at around 19.5, I started to feel the discomfort that I was experiencing during training – I almost felt lightheaded, but knew I wasn’t dehydrated. I had been consistently GU-ing every 4 to 4.5 miles, and taking a salt tablet ever hour. I let myself have some walk breaks here and there – I wish I didn’t feel like I need them. Had I had someone with me, I may have been able to keep running…
Finally, I reached the end of Haight St., got past the Mission, and was heading up 16th St. to Bryant St. Since this was a small hill, I gave myself the opportunity to walk up the hill with the resolution that I would start running at the top. After all, it was the last hill of the race. I got to the top, cranked up my music, and started running. All of a sudden, I look to my left and I see my dad running next to me! He’s hollering my name and taking pictures or videos and I just started to laugh! It was a complete surprise – I thought the next time after the park I would see them was going to be at the end. It was perfect.
Keep on going, keep on going – that’s what I told myself. Next checkpoint was going to be mile 23.5. I knew Lululemon would have their cheer station there and they would be looking for me. I forced myself to smile and to at least look like I wasn’t in pain. When they were finally within eyesight, I quickly scanned the group for the few girls that I had been running with. My memory of this might differ from theirs, but mind you, I was pretty loopy at this point. I saw one, she saw me, her eyes lit up and she grabbed another girl and as I approached them, they started running with me asking, “how are you feeling? You look great! You don’t look like you’ve been running a marathon! Less than 3 miles left!!!” The few blocks that they ran with me were incredibly motivating. In fact, the entire energy of the cheer station was amazing. They had music pumping, they were hollering and jumping around – I felt like their energy totally rubbed off on me. After a few blocks, they wished me luck and turned around.
FINALLY! I could see the ballpark. I kept repeating to myself, “I know this run. I know this like the back of my hand and I can do it in my sleep. One foot in front of the other.” Slowly but surely, the ball park was getting closer, then the bridge was getting closer. People were starting to gather around the ball park for the Giants game later that afternoon and the runners had to run around the backside of the ball park by the water. Soon, we were in the finishing chute and before I knew it, I was running as fast as I absolutely could at that moment and willing myself to cross that finish line.
Then I did. And I looked at my watch and it said 4:59:37. I didn’t meet my reach-goal of 4:45:00, but I reached my realistic goal of 5:00:00. That was a 42 minute PR. It was an amazing race with what felt like an amazing finish. I couldn’t have asked for more. I had most of my family with me and they cheered me one more than I could have asked for. I don’t know what I thought of during those 5 hours, but I know that they were in my mind a lot. In fact, it was like they were running with me, keeping me going.
Looking back, I am ecstatic. I am proud. And I am grateful for my body to withstand all the pressure I put on it to make this happen.
My hard work paid off, I met some new people who have proven to be great friends, and I’ve proven to myself that the first time wasn’t a fluke.
PS: Can you believe I still managed to go to the Giants game afterwards? It was against the Dodgers so there was no way I could miss it. ;)