When I arrived in San Francisco, the panic hit me. The hills, the hills, they were worse than I remembered. As we made our way to the expo (most disappointing expo ever)
on Friday afternoon I stared again and again at the course map; each time trying to tell myself that the hills wouldn’t be too bad and that at least they were in the first half of the race. When we drove the hilliest part of the course on Saturday afternoon, my stomach was in knots. What had I gotten myself into?
At 4:15 am on Sunday, I woke up to start my routine. We’ll technically I was up at 2 am with Ella then tossed and turned for about an hour and a half before my alarm went off to tell me I HAD to get out of bed. I had everything laid out the night before to make sure that I wouldn’t forget anything.
Getting ready went so well. I didn’t burn my toast, I had no digestive issues and Ella was sleeping soundly when Josh and I left at 5:30 to head to the starting line.
I sat in the car with Josh trying to put on my brave, I can do this face, until about 10 after 6 am. I easily found my way into my corral and shimmied up next to the 4-hour pacer.
She assured me the hills were nothing because we got to go down them too. The race started right on time which was great, but the first several miles were a complete clusterfuck. I should have known when corrals had an entire minute difference in the paces. But seriously, I did so much weaving between walkers (yes, walking in the first half mile) to try to keep up my pace and stick with the pacer that I ended up adding nearly a mile to my distance.
The crowd started to break up around mile 4 thank goodness. We hit our first major hill at mile 6. It was one of those hills that you could only see part of because it wound around.
It was the one I was most worried about, but turned out to be the easiest. At the top of that hill there was a bra exchange station which I thought was kind of funny. There were women flying in and out of it with shirts partially on and sports bras not quite covering the goods as they trying to rejoin the race.
After conquering mile 6, I was feeling good. Then mile 8 hit. That was the most difficult hill for me. I walked, twice. I enjoyed the nice downhill after it, but had to focus on not letting my legs move too fast to avoid hurting my knees and wearing myself out. It was at the bottom of this hill I stopped worrying about keeping up with the pacer and decided to just run my own race. I was still holding a nice pace hitting the 15k mark at 1:26:18.
As we crossed into Golden Gate Park I knew I was going to see my family soon. Just as I crossed the half marathon mark (2:00:59), my stepdad called to see where I was and let me know Josh was in the park. A few minutes later, Josh called. He met up with me around mile 14.5. I was so excited to see him and his encouragement was awesome. He ran with me until mile 18 where we passed my mom and Ella cheering me on.
It was around mile 20 I started falling apart. I was tired. The hills had really taken it out of me. The last several miles of the race were secluded, with little spectator support. You may not think it makes a difference to have strangers cheering you on, but it absolutely does. I started walking more and more. It didn’t help that every time I looked at my watch I saw that I was .88 miles ahead of the mile markers. It was mentally defeating. At mile 22, I stopped to stretch and I took one big sob. I just wanted it to be over.
I knew exactly where the 24 mile marker was because I had seen it on my way out. I tried to force myself to run until I saw that sign then I could walk again. I almost made it, but had to take a break. Gels were no longer helping give me energy. I was spent. I had hydrated and carb loaded, but bottom line, I was tired.
When I hit the 26.2 mile mark on my watch, I couldn’t even see the finish line. I cried out in frustration and exhaustion. I also smiled briefly when I saw that I hit that at 4:01. I had almost made my goal, even it if was unofficial. Right around the 25 mile mark, my mom came running towards to me. She gave me some much needed encouragement.
She ran alongside of me as I whimpered telling her I never wanted to run a marathon again. You can tell how tired I was by how hunched over I am in the picture above. Shortly after she joined me I heard and saw Josh, Mike and Ella cheering and clapping as we passed them one last time. With the finish line in sight, I gave everything thing I had left to sprint through the finish line.
My official time was 4:11:53, making my average pace 9:37 min/miles. That is a full 55 minutes faster than my first marathon in Seattle.
At that moment, though I knew I should be proud, I felt disappointed with myself. If I had only walked a little bit less. If I had only sucked it up and just pushed a little harder, I could have finished in 4 hours. I received my Tiffany necklace from a very handsome firefighter in a tuxedo, but couldn’t handle waiting in line for a picture.
My entire body was shaking. I found the chocolate milk, which was at the bottom of stairs, (who does that?) and then sat right on the ground by the Family and Friends tent. I couldn’t move another inch, I couldn’t control my body at all. I was sitting there for about 10 minutes when my mom found me. We sat for another 15 or so before I had the strength to get up.
We slowly walked to the car where I was greeted by big hugs. I finished my afternoon with a 90 minute full body massage, Indian dinner and a large chocolate sundae from Ghirardelli.
Now that a few days have passed, I wavering on my stance that I’ll never do another marathon. I keep thinking that maybe on a flat course I’ll be able to get that 4 hour, even possibly a sub-4 hour, marathon. Only time will tell, but for now, I’m taking it easy.