So many of you already know I ran the San Francisco Marathon this Sunday. Here is my story.
I arranged everything the night before and got into bed at like 8PM. I was even tired, and therefore proud of myself—I’d actually get sleep! But then of course I lay in bed for 2 hours tossing and turning and listening to the neighbor’s dog upstairs bark its head off and once I DID fall asleep I woke up half a dozen times ready to go. Finally the 3:15AM alarm went off and it was go time.
I got dressed, pulled everything together, and ate my race-day breakfast (peanut butter and banana sandwich). Then I spit toothpaste all over my race shirt, almost poured flat Mike’s Hard Cranberry Lemonade (who buys that stuff?!) into my water bottles instead of Gatorade, and my cab didn’t come. My “confirmed” cab. Thank God I have a car! Jeez. Left around 4:25 AM and headed down towards the quiet and peaceful Embarcadero.
I was at the start area for a while, just kind of taking it all in (and waiting in portapotty lines). I moved from wave 2 back to wave 4 so I had 20 more minutes before the start. We were SO BLESSED with the weather—it was clear and crisp but not cold! I’d brought THREE extra layers to shiver in at the start line and it was perfectly pleasant. That was awesome.
Then the running part started.
I went out with Erica and that was awesome. I also didn’t listen to my iPod for the first 8 miles which was even awesomer. I told myself the race didn’t start until mile 5 (the first real hill)… the beginning was just a warm up. I ran with Erica, chatted a bit, took in the whole experience, marveled at those out cheering at 6AM. I also went out too fast. I don’t have my Garmin splits (I’m at a hotel in Portland right now…) but I know I ran the first mile in 9 flat, the second in 9:10, the third in 9:05, and the fourth right around there.
I was feeling rather good and rather fresh up to the first hill up to the bridge. I walked a part of that—I knew this was one of the tougher hills and didn’t want to push it too hard so early on. Then we were on the bridge.
At mile 6 I was at about 55 minutes, averaging just over 9 minutes per mile. I started feeling pretty dehydrated at this point. I knew I needed to take in more liquid and also energy. I took my first GU at mile 6 and determined at that point I’d walk through the rest of the aid stations to make sure I actually drank at least two cups of water per, and even that wouldn’t be enough.
Running the bridge was awesome. I’ve run the bridge a lot, but it’s always stressful dodging cyclists, strollers and tourists. This time was really awesome. Though I actually noticed much more that it was a hill! (Photo courtesy SFM)
Before I knew it the bridge was over and we were at mile 10 at 1:35 or so. The next hill in the Presidio was the biggest and I walked a BIG chunk of that. I didn’t feel bad at all, as I was decently ahead of 4:15 pace at this point. The hill wasn’t as bad as I remembered, though, and before I knew it I was running again. We made it into the Richmond, mile 11, and I was thinking that I had gone out much too fast. I had had it in my mind that it would get easier past the Presidio, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have 16 more miles to run!
I lost Erica at mile 11 when they split the road right between us and that really bummed me out—the miles had gone by so much faster with her next to me! But I pushed through the hills down the avenues and made it into Golden Gate Park at mile 12.
I expected everything to get easier here—I was on my home turf! However, I felt the effects of my poor pacing. I crossed the half mark at 2:08.
2:08 is a very respectable time for a half.
2:08 is a VERY respectable time for the first half of SF which is verrrry hilly.
2:08 is an IDIOTIC time for someone who planned to run the first half in 2:12-2:15 and then try to negative split the course as everyone says to do at SF.
Pushing myself faster than I should have over the first half made the second half very difficult. Luckily miles 13-16 went by pretty fast because I knew I’d have friends at mile 16! The thought really brightened me up when I started to slow. (Photo below courtesy of RoadBunner—look how gorgeous and happy and awesome these girls are! Great signs. Thanks.)
At this point I was already taking a LOT of walk breaks. Big Sur was hillier and I didn’t start taking any walk breaks til mile 17 and this was much different. I felt dehydrated, tired, sore, achy, any combo of bad things. It was REALLY hard to keep running already. I willed myself around Stow Lake and out of the park, telling myself that it was all downhill from there (literally).
I couldn’t even run all the way down Haight Street (my street!) I was just still trying to recover from the worse hills of the first half and the pace. I had told myself I should never see an 8 on my Garmin; rather often I had looked down and seen myself running an 8:30 pace. That is NOT my marathon pace. And I paid for it.
A guardian angel in the form of a coworker saved my life with a bottle of Gatorade at the mile 20 marker. The steep downhill on Haight Street was rather painful and knocked me out even worse. But then I knew I’d see my sister between mile 21 and 22 so it willed me on… and then the best surprise… MY WHOLE FAMILY was on the corner of 16th and Harrison! What a blessing. They walked up that corner with me and it was awesome. My dad had the app too that gave them my splits.
HONESTY: the last 4/5 miles were death. They were just horrible. Not scenic, industrial, ugly, rolling hills, couldn’t really tell where I was going, TIRED. I kept walking. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t have the physical energy or the mental willpower to keep on going. At mile 23 I said I’d run the last 5K nonstop even if I was practically crawling. I made it 0.2 miles before I had to stop and walk again. It didn’t even necessarily feel like a wall. I just felt like I’d given up.
Also, the course ran a bit long which made it so frustrating on the Garmin those last few miles. I’m pretty sure I clocked the race at 26.55 miles. That extra 0.35, legit or not, was like, four minutes on my marathon time! So I plan to subtract those four minutes and declare that my new time. Just kidding.
I knew where the finish line was before I could see it. I did everything I can to keep myself going. I’d seen my 4:15 pace slip to a 4:19 and then plus 4:20. I just didn’t want to risk not beating my Big Sur time of 4:27:50 or something like that so I willed myself across the finish line in 4:22:50, a PR by 5 minutes.
After those last five miles of misery I was very, very grateful to be done.
And to get a heatsheet. My first heatsheet! Courtney’s all grown up…
Once I was able to hobble my way out of the finish chute and around to my fam, I immediately stuffed half a banana, half a scone, and a handful of M&Ms into my mouth and then promptly wanted to vomit (but I didn’t so success).
Once I could walk and talk normally again we went to the ferry building for bathrooms and to grab some food for the fam. it was SUCH an amazing surprise to see all my family there and it meant so much to me to have them there for me when I crossed the finish line and promptly ceased to be a sentient being.
So I finished alive and set a PR. But how do I really feel about this race?
Basically, it would be foolish and selfish of me to be anything BUT overjoyed with this race. I have blogged about SFM a lot lately leading up to it, about injury, lack of training, feeling grateful just to get to the start line without being hurt. To have not only gotten to the starting line but also to the finish line in one piece with no injury and even beating my last time is joyous. Especially because I didn’t push myself too hard—I took one day off slightly sore and then went running on Tuesday. Back to normal. (Minus the significant chunks of both my middle toes that are missing… hmmmm.)
In short I am so happy and grateful that I got to have this race experience, and to share it with family and friends, and to stay healthy.
But this race also frustrated me. Because it showed me a taste of what I COULD do.
I made some mistakes in this race and had I just went out a little slower, fueled a little better, and most importantly, willed myself along in those last 5 miles I could have easily run a 4:10-4:15 today. But I didn’t. Part of that is physical. But a big part of that was mental. I couldn’t tell you if, in those last five miles, I didn’t have any physical energy left or if I simply didn’t have enough mental energy to care. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m gonna kick myself for these last five miles” during them, but it just wasn’t enough. It made me realize that I need to get healthier and train better and stop selling myself short and I WILL run that 4:10 marathon or someday a 3:59:59. I’m not fast and I never will be, but I CAN get better at this both physically and mentally and SFM showed me a glimpse of that.
It’s so easy to focus on the shortcomings—why can’t I be one of those people who runs a 4:00 marathon?—instead of the progress. Hey, when I started running in January for reals, my short run pace was 10:30. Now I can do 8:30s. PROGRESS!! And that’s the great thing about running… you’re only truly competing against yourself.
Around noon, I met up with a bunch of bloggers and friends at Pier 23. I wasn’t really hungry at this point (I’d felt like throwing up for a good portion of the race, and I NEVER really get nauseous,..) but I got a beer (awesome) and some sweet potato fries. it was great to get to catch up with everyone and hear about different race experiences, and find a bit of comfort in that most EVERYONE hated those last five miles!
The day ended with two beautiful things: Ben & Jerrys, and Genki Ramen with Alyssa and Erica. Perfection.
Part of me feels like I let myself down in this race by not pushing harder, and then I remember, I went into this race wanting no pushing at all. I came into this race to enjoy it as an experience, to learn, to take it all in, to fall in love with the marathon. And I did. No matter what, there are going to be things we wish we could change—that’s reality. But most importantly, I did it, I finished marathon #2, and I achieved my main goal:
I had fun.
Here’s to the next, hopefully faster, marathon and all the FUN to come between now and then!
Check out some of my new friends’/running inspirations’ recaps:
- Alyssa’s Marathon Recap
- Erica’s Marathon Recap
- Aron’s Marathon Recap
- Naomi’s Half Marathon Recap
- Page’s Half Marathon Recap