Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I did it! 26.2 is in the bag :D
(Adding at the end-There are a lot of details and this is quite long. I really wanted to remember everything as I already seem to be loosing a little bit of the moment. Thanks for reading along!)
We are loaded into the car and the children have stopped screaming. Seems like a good time to put a few thoughts together.
What a crazy few days it has been. I have certainly missed California there is no doubt about that. Not just the weather, but how open and friendly the people are around here. The pace of life is so much slower-not quite Southern slow, but slower none the less.
The children are handling traveling better than we could have imagined. Such a blessing! I would say things were going smoothly, but that would be a lie. Ryan’s favorite thing to say right now is “Stupid” and follows it up with throwing something. Grand. It is better than the other night as we were walking in downtown SLO, all of us starving looking for a place to eat, Ryan decided that was the best time to use a curse word for the first time in his life. Standing at a cross walk, “GodDammitGodDammitGodDammit” I being the great mom that I am decided to completely ignore it hoping it would stop quickly. He was saying it but not very loudly thankfully and I hoped and prayed he would get over it before he kicked up the volume notch. It seemed to work and I haven’t heard it come out of his mouth again thankfully. As you may have guessed, this came from me. I curse VERY infrequently around the children, but last week was not a banner mom week. I had hit my limit of patience and at one point I yelled “God Dammit Just Stop!!!” That is all it took. He did not say it that day, but I knew he was saving it up for Just The Right Time To Use it. Oh, my boy is smart one I tell you.
I know what you are really here for though, a race report. I don’t blame you. That has been the whole point of this right??
Races tend to start early. For good reason, who wants to be running in the middle of the day in the high heat? Also, I can’t imagine starting late like they do at the RNR Las Vegas (a 5:00pm start) What would I do all day long?
This one seemed to be REALLY early though. It was a point to point race and they had us meet at the finish and then shuttled us to the start. This being there first race, I think they over planned a bit-I will not complain being the planner I am. So this was their schedule:
3:30-4:00 you need to arrive to catch the shuttle (there will be no shuttles after 4:20)
5:00 Line up for Marathon
6:00 Start of the race
WTF???? Seriously? Did they think I would really get to a race 2 1/2 hrs before the race? Ummmm, nope not moi. I had the cab pick me up at 3:50 to drop me off just slightly after 4:00. I was one of the last people to get on the first bus to the start. There was no one else in site! They had something like five shuttle busses-luxury coaches by the way, not school busses or vans, full on tour busses.
We got to the High School parking lot where they had us wait to line up. So I finished getting ready there. I did not want to wake the entire family while I prepped, plus I had no interest in getting up before I absolutely had to just to put on some body glide and sunscreen.
I sat quietly next to a few ladies trying to stay warm. We all started to chat a bit as we woke up. I met a lady in her late 60’s early 70’s who had run marathons in all 50 states and on all 7 continents. Amazing! She recapped a few races for us which was great. She even agreed that this was a little early for the event. I was even more impressed that later on I was running with her during the race.
So after waking up so early, I had plenty of time to hydrate. This is something I wanted to make sure I took care of. After the MI Half feeling dehydrated in the first mile, I did not want to repeat that little mistake. I am pretty sure I made my week long goal to drink water until I floated! There was a downside to this. I had to pee every five minutes it felt like. Waiting for the start I think I went a dozen times! OK, not that much, but it could have been.
They walked us over to the start. I had debated what to do with the pace group option. I knew that I wanted to finish in under 5hrs. I also knew that I *thought* I could finish in about 4 1/2hrs. I had asked around and got the advice from more experienced runners to not follow a pace group. They normally run at even splits or so which may be difficult for me as it was my first race. After debating the pros and cons I remembered the most important piece of advice I have received and that is to “Run your own race the way that feels right to you” With that in mind, it felt right to try and follow the pacers. At the start they went over their plan for how they were going to run the race. It seemed like a doable pace to me. Splits ranging from 9ish min/mi to no slower than 10:40 min/mi. That was the pace I was doing for all of my long training runs, so I thought, ok I’ll go with it as long as I can. If I fall off so be it. If they are going to slow I will pick it up.
Then gun went off just slightly after 6:15-I know this because Mike texted me and I heard it beep just before the start of the race. Wouldn’t you know it-within the first 5min after crossing the starting line, I had to PEE!! Damn them for keeping us standing around so long!!! Damn it that I drank so much water!! I decided that I was going to just stop at the first porta potty and get it over with. I was not the only person with the same problem. The line was at least six deep. I did stop my Garmin at this point. More out of habit I think than anything.
Of course with that many people, I lost my pace group but I really didn’t think much about it. I was actually really relaxed and I was not going to fast. I felt smooth and in tune with myself. I was actually VERY Zen at that moment. I am not sure when it happened now, but I think it was somewhere in the next three miles I caught sight of the 4:30 pace group sign. It was not hard to miss. One of the pacers-Larry (Larry Cucumber if you ask Ryan) had on micro shorts that were hot pink animal print! They looked straight out of the 80’s! He was a real man to rock those I tell you! This was only his fourth marathon and he was a local. He did a great job keeping us pumped. He would count down the miles and give us a Woot Woot! at every mile. We also had Rocco as a pacer. This was his 69th marathon, so he was kind of the lead guy. They both wore hot pink pacer shirts, so when I saw those manly men in all their hot pink glory-I started to cry for reals! I knew I could catch them and most likely, if I could catch them, I would finish in 4:30ish time.
As I was catching up to them, I noticed one of the guys near them had a small flag pinned onto his shirt. It was a Armenian flag paying tribute to those who had fallen in the Armenian Genocide 97 years ago. You may not be aware of this historical fight, and if you are Turkish, you will say it did not happen. I knew nothing about this event until I met my friend Nicole several years ago. She is Armenian and is very active in the Armenian community. She also has done mission rebuilding work in present day Armenia. For this reason, seeing this man running in honor of the victims just felt right. I pulled out my phone to take the only pic of the race. We chatted and became fast friends. I found out he runs about one marathon per month and dedicates each mile to a different victim. He wishes he could honor all of them, but he realized that there was no way to do it for all of the 100,000+ victims. At this point he has honored 13,000 and will continue for as long as he can.
Most of the race went by smoothly. I did have to stop to pee again, but I was quick and I knew I could catch my pacers again. I was just feeling good! I knew there were some tough hills between mile 17-22. Because of this I had told MIke to try and meet me out on the course at that point. I knew I would need a bit of a mental lift. As that time got closer, things just were not feeling quite right.
I had to pee yet again :P and I also was having a hard time getting my shoe tied right. I had also stopped a few times to retie the stupid thing. We planned on meeting at Tank Farm Rd. I knew it was coming up and I swear I asked every person along the route how far it was to Tank Farm. In my mind if I could make it there and see my family, I could get through the rest.
By this time, I pee’d again and I lost my friends of the pace group and I was just struggling. I was putting one foot in front of the other and that is all I could do. As I was running up to Tank Farm Rd, I realized I had run the route too quickly and my family wasn’t there. I literally stopped on the course and just stood there kind of not knowing what to do. I called Mike and he explained that they weren’t letting traffic just flow and he knew he would miss me so he was moving on to a different spot so he could at lest see me once. I took every ounce of my being to not be furious. Clearly this was not his fault-he had never tried to spectate a marathon before let alone with two toddlers in tow. I know how hard it is getting the timing right with our two crazies along, but DAMN IT I NEEDED THEM!!!
Believe it or not I was still just standing there kind of frozen. I didn’t know how to start running again. I had to do something because I knew I couldn’t just quit for no reason. So, if I couldn’t see them in person, I had to bring them to me. I was having a hard time picturing them in my head believe it or not. The one thing I could do though was to hear Ryan’s voice in my head saying “C is for Celiophesis, D is for Diplodocus” We have a dinosaur A-Z book that we read every night and when we are in the car I will say a letter and he will tell me the corresponding dinosaur. I went through the whole alphabet twice. As I finished the second time, I crested yet another hill and suddenly I had this overwhelming sense of calm and the words “you’ve got this” went through my head and I knew that I did, so of course tears came again.
At this point I was really running alone. It was a field of 2,000 runners both half and full combined and of that it was only about a third running the full. So, that meant I was running with people either pretty far in front of me or pretty far behind me. We were also out in the middle of nowhere wine country-which was gorgeous, but it meant there wasn’t a single spectator. Also, water breaks were about two miles apart. That meant I had some time to pull myself together.
At this point, I knew I was going to make it to the finish. I knew it would be in under 5hrs. I also knew that things were not easy right at that minute. I also became ok with walking up some of the hills. Believe it or not, I also did know I would most likely finish in around 4:30. We had banked about 4min or so when I fell of the pace group so I knew I would be ok.
All of this happened around the time when the course looped back into itself for a portion of the race. I stumbled on some of the half marathoners who were still out there walking it out. I felt so much pride for them. There was a lady that reminded me of my mom. She was out there giving it her best and I could see she was in pain and not doing to great, but she was going. I think I yelled something like “keep going-you’re doing great” but honestly I was a little delirious myself at that minute. For all I Know I said Gabba Gabba Goo Goo.
We finally were getting back to civilization! Thanks Be To God!! I love rolling hills that produce wine, but I am not sure I want to run in them again soon! At mile 23 The Hash House Harriers were there with beer and oh I wanted one SOOO bad, but I was actually having a hard time breathing and I didn’t think I would be a good idea to imbibe. In retrospect, I think I drank too much water. That can be just as bad for you as dehydration. I had been drinking Nuun in my water bottles, but on the course I drank water and an electrolyte drink called Fluid that I had never had before. I am not sure how much electrolyte is actually in that. I know next time I am going to drink a little more cautiously.
Just before mile 24 I got to kiss my husband and babies. They were like a mirage. My babies cheeks had never seemed so smooth and perfect as they did in that second. I swear I just wanted to eat those baby cheeks right up! Right at that point was a group of ladies holding up a “Run Like A Mother” sign. It fueled the tears that were already in my eyes! They had seen me kiss the kids and they yelled “Go Mommy!!” That was a great kick for sure.
This is where I get kind of pissed. Just past them we ran on a bike path. No Big until we got to basically an overpass that went over some railroad tracks. It was straight up and you had to wind around four times up and four times down. I had to walk. There was no way my legs could go up that incline and in fact, the down was even more painful! My quads were screaming as were my calves. My toes all felt bruised. Nothing was right. But, I kept moving one foot in front of the other. Just keep swimming-right Dory?!?!
Mile 25 came in a gorgeous neighborhood where everyone kept telling me you are almost there, just one more mile to go! Then with less than a half mile to go on another path was an enormous hill that again was quick straight up. The volunteers kept saying, just get to that tree and it is all downhill. I had to walk and I was FURIOUS!!!! If I had to walk I told myself I would run the last mile for sure. I didn’t. Honestly there was nothing I could do. I could not move my legs up that hill in a running fashion. I did as much of a quick shuffle as I could, but honestly-it was walking. The good news was it was downhill all the way to the finish. Just as I crested the stupid hill, I could see the shoot to the finish (because the hill was steep enough you could not see the finish line until you crested the hill) and there was my family. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness. I felt more joy in those moments than I have at any other time in my life except at my wedding and when the children were born.
As I crossed the finish line, I had the most amazing smile on my face. I had played this moment in my head many times-for years even- and every time it ended with me a sobbing mess. In reality, I was just overcome with peace and happiness that was simply embodied with a smile.
Wouldn’t you know it-there was Larry Cucumber!! They had finished less than four minutes in front of me! He said “Sarah!” I hugged him and started to cry at that point. Not the gusher I thought would happen, but tears none the less. The ladies handed me my medal and congratulated me. I was beaming!
I have no post race letdown, I ran exactly the race I should have. It felt perfect! In fact I now look at marathons differently than I do any other race distance and it is for the good. This distance is for me. I have found something I LOVE to do. I know I will change a few things, but I don’t know if I will always be chasing the PR with this distance. I am almost at peace with not trying to go fast and finish in under four hours. Almost. ;-)
So what did I learn.
Well, first- you can over hydrate. I know I did this.
Secondly- try your hardest not to travel far to your first full with toddlers. This should be self explanatory. The hardest thing was coming off the course and in less than two minutes I was back to mom. I had a toddler melting down before I even had a chance to stretch. My legs were seizing up on me. It was miserable. Navigating the post race area was a nightmare with a toddler who gets overwhelmed in crowds of people. There was no time to get post race bananas and oranges or BEER for Pete’s sake! It was all we could do to get my gear bag and find the car. I gave up trying to walk to the car and asked Mike to bring it to me. Thankfully Alma turned me on to Recoverite by Hammer. I had bought two single serve packs...just in case. Of course I used both as a post race meal was not going to happen soon. I did get a nice shower in while Mike to the kiddos to the beach. I slathered on Biofreeze from the tips of my toes to the tops of my thighs.
After we walked around SLO and got a meal in, we headed back to the hotel pool. This was a welcome sensation on my legs! The hot tub was a God send. I am not sure if that is a good idea or a bad idea, but it felt good so I went with it.
Now two days post race, my quads still remind me I did some work, but overall I feel amazingly great! I plan on giving myself the full 26 days to recover. I am so happy to say I made it through injury free! I really could not have asked for a better experience.
Oh, in the hot tub, I ran into a couple who ran the Half but had originally planned on running the full. The wife had an IT issue, so they both ended up doing the half. The gentleman had run 44 marathons, so I asked him “how was this course? Hard, easy, average?” He told me that it was very similar to Big Sur. Not an easy course, but not the hardest by far. I also asked about running up the overpass. He said he had to do the same thing in one of the San Francisco races, but it isn’t common. All in all he said it was a tough course for a first timer and my time was great for my first one on a course like this :D :D :D :D I felt like I was super human-even if he told that to me just to make me feel good (which I really don’t think he did)
In the end my Mantra of “Be Thankful” was completely manifested in the moment.
I AM BLESSED!!!
Peace and Love