Sunday started off well. Alarm went off at 4:20am. Got up, felt rested and alert. Showered, ate 1/2 a bagel with peanut butter on it. Walked the dog and I was off into the dark morning. The one good thing about early Sunday marathons is, no traffic!
Pre-race picture with Leonard
I made my way into San Francisco and easily found parking near the start line; Union Square. I made a pit stop in the Sir Frances Drake Hotel (which was clearly a host hotel for TNT runners) and was treated to a real bathroom, with toilet paper AND a flushing toilet. Rare find on marathon mornings.
The start area of most marathons is always an experience in and of itself. There is so much electricity and excitement in the air. I always find myself looking around and watching the faces of other runners and wondering what their story is. Is it their first marathon? Are they coming back after some set-back (illness, injury)? Are they going to have a PR today? This race however was slightly different for a few reasons.
- It was mainly women. I would hazard a guess that less than 5% of the runners were male.
- It was a sea of TNT runners (team in training). Lot's of purple jerseys.
- There were many running abilities present
I made my way over to the school buses that were acting as the bag drop, said goodbye to my phone and all contact with the outside world and headed to the start line. No more pit stops for me. Just the infamous; stand and wait. I was lined up by 6:30am, but the next 30 minutes went by quickly. I scanned the crowds looking for any familiar faces, as I knew a lot of the people I had met recently while running would be tackling this course. I was unable to find anyone and was slightly disappointed. I wanted to offer up my "good luck" and just seeing a familiar face race morning always calms the nerves. At the last minute, I did spot Alisyn in the crowd and we spent a few minutes together before the gun went off (then we lost each other in the masses).
I had heard before hand that the Nike Women's Marathon course was not an easy one and the full marathon wasn't that well received. I was nervous and filled with anticipation to see how these two facts panned out. They pretty much were spot on.
I've run some challenging courses, but for me, this was the most challenging. I could tell by mile 1, that my legs didn't feel right. Apparently, I felt rested, but they did not. Then the hills came. It seemed like one hill after another. I recall at one point turning a corner and saying out-loud "You have got to be kidding me, another hill?". I admired all those runners around me who just powered up those hills. I kept trudging up the hills, all the while wondering if I would be able to finish this marathon. Around mile 6, I did something I rarely do, I pondered stopping right there and getting a DNF (did not finish). I just felt like I did not have it in me, which was very disappointing as 2 weeks earlier, I had a great 1/2 marathon and felt fantastic the entire time. This thought plagued me for miles. Then came mile 8. I looked left and saw them. I yelled, I jumped in the air, I waved frantically. It was Katie, Page, Dennis and Jessica. Honestly, seeing any familiar face on the sidelines is like getting a second wind. I don't quite think spectators realize the importance they play for those running the race.
Katie, Page, Dennis & Jessica's sign at mile 8
I got my second wind and I kept running. But the sails died out quickly. By mile 10 I began to second guess myself again. For the next mile I argued with myself if I should just turn off at mile 11 and finish the 1/2 marathon and be done with it. Mile 11 came and went. I continued trudging along. My mile splits were a range of times. I was not consistent to say the least. By mile 12:55, I said to myself; "just drop out. Today is not your day". I have never been closer to quitting a race than at that moment. All I kept thinking was "You have 13.5 more miles of this". I don't know how, but I just kept going. One foot in front of the other.
I began walking through the aid stations to ensure I was taking in enough fluids. I felt so thirsty the entire race. Others told me this was due to the humidity. I had taken in a gel at miles 6 and 13 and had planned my 3rd one around mile 18.
Around mile 15.5, we emerged from Golden Gate Park onto the Great Pacific Highway. I loved this portion. Not only did the weather feel cooler, but it was a nice downhill for a mile or so. I personally love the downhills and loved them even more on this day. My lungs felt like they had been working in overdrive, the downhills felt like a place for them to rest.
At mile 17, I got another treat, my friend/coworker, Jose and his son came out to cheer me on. They drove all the way from Antioch. It really meant a lot to me. I would see them again around mile 24.
Me surrounded by my posse waving at Jose
Then the clouds parted (figuratively speaking) and something wondrous happened. I had 8 miles to go. I felt drained. My mental energy was gone. And then they appeared. Katie, Page, Dennis & Jessica. I knew Katie and Jessica had planned to meet me around mile 18 to run with me the last few miles, but I had no clue Page & Dennis would be there too. I have never felt so worthy and touched. I know that sounds corny, but to have 4 people jump in (2 of them strangers) and run with me, cheer for me, pep me up, do anything they could to ensure I stayed in a straight line and got to the finish, it literally was a great moment.
By mile 19, all I could think about was an iced-cold Diet Coke. I maybe drink 1-2 per month, so no clue why that drink popped into my head, but I would have likely given $100 bucks for it had someone been holding one.
Me and the posse headed around Lake Merced. This is a 4-mile stretch with few spectators and not much scenery. The fab-4 did whatever they could to keep my spirits up. I got cheers. I got tips. I got energy from them. They also helped cheer on other runners and I witnessed a few who were walking, pick up their pace and run off into the sunset due to the encouragement of the fab-4.
I continued with my walking through aid stations. I was digging deep just to make it to that finish line. I recall asking Katie "Will we make a 4hrs 15 min? I would be extremely thrilled with that time." and she responded "No. We will not see 4hrs 15 minutes. I won't let you. You have a sub-4 in you. Let's go.". Going into this race, knowing the difficulty of the course and the not-so-great comments I had heard about the latter portion of the course, I had told myself first goal was to finish, second anything under 4:30 and your dream goal would be 4 hours.
Walk break time! (Photographer: Page)
Katie and gang were tracking my pace closely and doing the math to see how close to 4 hours I could get. It would be VERY close. At mile 26, the fab-4 bid me adieu and I was left to run the .2 miles alone. I knew they had given me a gift by running with me and I knew I had to give them something back, I kicked it into high gear and found the energy I felt missing that past 13 miles. While I didn't hit 4 hours, I came so dang close. 4 hours, 1 minute, 57 seconds. I was thrilled. I had just completed a race that only hours before I thought for certain I wouldn't finish.
I received my finishers medal, t shirt, Tiffany's necklace, got my water and headed to get my bag from the bag check.
In the end, #13 turned out to be lucky, with some unlucky challenges along the way. I was glad I overcame them, glad I finished and glad I got to do so with familiar faces. That was likely the best part of the day, sharing it with others. So many wonderful and talented women ran this race, I consider myself lucky to know a few of them.
The infamous blue Tiffany's box
I think the thing I learned the most during #13 was, I am stronger than I think I am; I just need to dig deeper. And, listen to those around you. If they say it isn't a great course, listen to them and don't run the full!
In the end, I got my iced cold Diet Coke. I was happy.
Garmin time: 4:01:55 (official time 4:01:57)
Garmin miles: 26.48 miles
58/638 (age group)
399/6121 (all marathoners)
#7: 10:14 (the dreaded hills)