I can’t believe this post is here. How did the 6 months since I registered fly by so fast?
I was also seriously doubting that I would be able to write this post. I was losing my mind the 2 weeks leading up to race day. I even had a back up plan all picked out. I was going to have some valid (to me) reason to quit at the halfway point and then say I was going to run a local marathon in October. And then come up with some reason by then why I couldn’t. This was still in my mind even on expo day.
Race day dawned all too quickly. I stayed in bed until the last moment. I got up, got dressed, panicked a bit and we were out the door. Disclaimer moment- the way I fueled for this race was specific to me and my weird stomach- I in no way recommend it. I did not eat anything prior to the race. My Camelback was filled with orange Gatorade and I had Honey Stinger chews in the front pockets.
Ashley was awesome enough to drop me off as close to the start as possible before she parked and Uber’ed to the Second half starting line. I felt like I needed a bathroom but couldn’t find the port-a-potties. I stood in the line for the one pier bathroom I saw but decided screw it about 5 minutes before they closed the gates to my starting wave. So I lost my throw away layer, took a place near the 2:30 half marathon pacer and took a deep breath. Wave 7 started right on time at 6:22 and we were off.
Miles 1-5 Hello, speedy. 10:40, 10:48, 11:08, 10:48, 10:54
I started at what felt like a comfortable pace and just tried to enjoy the sights of running along the Embarcadero in SF. Ocean views, boats and the prettiest McDonald’s I’d ever seen. I saw Coit Tower in the distance. I came up behind the 4:55 pacer and tucked myself in behind them. I heard the guy say that he was planning on running everything but the hills- those he would walk. Perfect! That had been my strategy anyway. Hit the first water station- I walked through and drank some water. Mile 3 included the first hill but it was a baby one so I almost ran it but forced myself to walk. Yeah, remember how that pacer said he would walk the hills? His walk was my running pace. We ran into the Presidio and I caught up with the pace group again. We were looping around towards the bridge and all I could see was the fog around the bridge. My mother was tracking me via the app and she sent me a text telling me to watch my pace. No problem as up next was another hill…and it was bigger. I took 2 Honey Stinger chews at mile 5. My Garmin was also about .25 miles off the mile markers.
Totally lost the pace group on this climb. I kept them in my sights until the bridge and then they were gone. I had been looking forward to running the bridge and enjoying the sights but Karl had other plans. I thought I was prepared for fog but yeah no. This was more like rain. The mist was making me wet and the bridge was drenched in water. There were metal plates that were slick and I almost face planted twice. I slowed down as my shoes filled with water. Grrr. Once across the bridge we looped Vista Point before heading back to the bridge. The aid station as Vista Point was having some issues- they had run out of premixed Nuun and were low on filled water cups. I still managed to snag one but I was glad I had my Camelbak and was sipping on Gatorade every mile or so. Then I was heading back over the bridge and I was done with the fog and the water- I wanted off the bridge. Coming off the bridge led to another hill but it was a little drier and less foggy so I was loving it. I took another 2 chews at mile 10.
Downhill holla! It was too short. I was bouncing back and forth with the 5:10 pace group. What the hell? I was on track for a 2:30 half and they were ahead of the 2:30 pace group. They eventually left me in the dust so I have no idea when they finished. I started to slow down but can’t pinpoint why, I was still walking the hills and there were a lot but I was running a decent pace on the rest. We ran through city streets until we turned into Golden Gate Park. The second half runners were merging with us and the first half runners were heading towards their finish line. I didn’t even think about following them. I hit the halfway point at 2:33:13. Ok, a little slower than I hoped for but still good. I had been told the second half was less hilly so I was hoping for a negative split. Oh, naive Slacker. Miles 14 and 15 were a longish out and back and it was a bit mind numbing. Mile marker 15 was also in the wrong spot. My watch said 14.5 miles and I knew it was ahead anyways. Grrr. 2 more chews around 15.
Miles 16-18 Uh oh miles. 13:03, 13:29, 13:54
We were deep in the park looping paths and I passed an aid station around 15.5 They were also having troubles keeping up with the demand. I felt ok so I grabbed a cup of water and kept going. Just before the mile 16 marker, things changed. My stomach cramped in a very bad way. I knew there was a bathroom 1/2 mile behind me but the thought of adding distance to already long race was too much. So I walked more than I would have like and ran when I could. I knew the next bathrooms had to be around 2 miles farther. I am sure that at any other time, I would have enjoyed looking at the park around me but I just wanted the hell out of the place. I felt like we were looping around forever. I could even hear the First Half finish line but had no idea where it was coming from. Let me out! We were finally out of the loops and running past the First Half finish, I just kept looking for the bathrooms. Aid station!!! I ran towards the port-a-potties but it didn’t have toilet paper. Nor the second or the third. WTF?! Success at the fourth. And nothing happened!! Stupid stomach. Since I wasn’t breaking any speed goals I made sure to use the hand washing station before running on. I have to say the cold water felt amazing. Considering the pitstop in mile 18, I have no idea how it came in at only 13:54. Ashley started texting me encouragement at this point along with my mom so I had those to look forward to.
Miles 19-21 Park, still?! 12:33, 12:18, 11:38
I’m still in the park?! Yes, it was pretty but I felt like it was taking forever. As we were finally coming out of the park there was a group of ummm, homeless men to the right. They were cheering on the runners as we ran by. One shouted out the he had heard that cannabis helped increase stamina. Ummm, thanks? I admit it made me laugh though and I dug myself out of my park coma as we headed towards Haight-Ashbury. I glanced at my watch around mile 20 and knew I was slower than my 20 mile training run but it is what it is. These hills were no joke. I ate 2 more chews at mile 20 and water at every aid station.
The beginning of the city streets were pretty and interesting to look at but I needed a kick in the pants so I turned on my music around mile 21. Yes, I ran 21 miles with nothing but sounds of my breathing and the sounds on the course. I only had one earbud in so I could still check out my surroundings. I passed a Taco Bell/ KFC combo and the smell of fried chicken made me nauseous. I passed cool looking houses and homeless tents camped on the sidewalks. I passed the scariest Burger King I’ve seen in my life. I ran passed a man in jeans, heeled boots and a black lace bra singing to the runners. I won’t lie, I was getting tired and my hips were hurting but I kept trucking. I did have to slow down for a cable car to go through the course. The last few miles were very industrial.
Yeah, I did something funky to my Garmin there and by this point in the race, my watch was reading 1/2 mile longer than the course. AT&T Stadium and the Bay Bridge were looming but they seemed like mirages in the distance, never getting closer. The crowds picked up as we got closer- it was a game day so there were people heading into the stadium. We ran around the stadium and back onto the Embarcadero. I wish I could say I was running this last bit but it was more like run 100 yards, walk 100 yards. Text messages were coming in constantly from friends and family in the last 1/2 mile but I just ignored them. Turns out my mom was posting my time updates to Facebook while I was running.
26.2 Holy crap. 5:22:27
Crowds were cheering, under the bridge and to the finish line. I actually did it. I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch.
Then I just stood there, I had no idea what to do next and there wasn’t much direction. I was finally handed a bottle of water and pointed towards the medals which were farther away than I was used to. From there, I found a picture line but still little to no direction from the volunteers. I marched in place while in line and responded to my mom’s texts and then Ashley’s. Then I was out of the picture line and headed towards food tables where volunteers handed me a banana and bar of sort but no bag to carry them. I didn’t have the manual dexterity to carry all that plus my pack which I had taken off at some point and I was starting to get emotional. I ended up standing in the road just past that and started crying. What was wrong with me?! Ashley called me and I headed towards where she said she was but I was feeling very lost. I found her and her sister and calmed down a bit. They asked me how I was feeling and what I needed. I said that physically I was feeling ok but I didn’t really feel like food. I was really craving a Diet Coke. Ashley’s sister went and found me a soda while Ashley and I headed to the challenge tent to pick up my California Dreamin’ medal.
I am not sure how I went from being a hot mess for 2 weeks to never even doubting that I could finish come race day. The fog made me wheeze during the bridge miles, the hills kicked my ass but I just kept running. I saw the turn off for the first half finish but it never seemed like an option. I was slower than I would have liked but I just kept moving forward. I walked more than I would have like but I just kept moving. I somehow managed to thank volunteers on the back half of the course, I talked to another “marathon virgin” on the course and spoke to one of the bad ass ultra runners. I am not a talker during races. At the finish a guy thanked me for pushing him. Umm, what? Turns out he focused on my socks for the last bit and followed me.
It’s been 2 days and I still haven’t processed a lot from the race or training. There will probably be another post coming. And a whole lot of thank yous to people.
You guys, I ran a marathon!!!!