Monday, July 30, 2012

Race Recap: San Francisco Marathon

I still can't believe that the SFM is over. When I signed up for this race 8 months ago after running my first half marathon everyone thought it was a joke, some hopeless dream an amateur runner was chasing.

Needless to say I proved them wrong. First with the St. Louis Marathon and now with #2 in the books. I still have so much to learn and so much room to grow with this sport. The thing you can appreciate the most about running a marathon is that NO MATTER how in shape and ready you are, come race day ANYTHING can happen. The uncertainty, the risks and the post-race reward all make running so worthwhile. All you have to answer is "HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT IT?"

I wanted it badly. But I did not know what "it" was. A PR? A BQ? A race where I would finish strong and not feel like death? Running in honor of my track friends?

Two Days Before...

So let's rewind to EXPO day. I had a little conversation with the 3 hour marathon Pacer that went a little like this.

"So I can't decide if I want to go for a BQ or not... I mean I think I might be able to run a 3:35 marathon but I'm not sure and don't want to die in the last 10k."- Me
"What was your last marathon time and where was it?"- Him
"3:56.... in St. Louis"- Me
'rolls eyes...' "This is REALLY hard course"- Him
"BUT I was injured and forgot to taper then! I feel much better now"- Me
'rolls eyes again...' "Have you done hill work and track repeats?"- Him
"Kinda..."- Me
'sigh' "Well if you want to...just do it. Or try. I don't think you'll be able to make up time in the downhill if you go out too slowly, you'll have to run 7:30 miles" (you're stupid)- Him

I probably should have listened to Mr. Pacer Dude. After all, his PR is a 2:30 and even he says that SF is a tough course. I blissfully ignored his wise words and went about my day dreaming about 3:35.

Yep, those are some hills.

Race Morning

My alarm went off at the lovely hour of 3AM, but let's be honest here; I was up before my alarm went off. Dang insomnia. Still, though, I felt rested and ready to rock and roll (or run.) I headed downstairs and quickly ate breakfast of coffee and oatmeal with peanut butter and banana in hopes of digesting for a few hours before the 5:30 start time.

I had laid out my gear the night before so after getting back in bed for 40 minutes or so, I quickly got dressed and headed out to my car. My mom and brother were accompanying me to the race so all I had to worry about was getting mentally ready; they took care of driving/parking and the rest.

I got to the start at around 5:20 and really had to go to the bathroom. There were tons of porta potties, but also tons of people. Fortunately I made my way though the line and jumped into Wave 3 1 minute before the start time. Whew, cutting it close. Before I knew it, my wave was off and running and so was I.

 Good Morning!

At this point I was still struggling with the decision to try to BQ or not. I kept glancing at my Garmin, mentally cursing myself for going too fast (BQ pace) or going too slow (3:40 something race pace.)

F* it, I decided I was going to go for it, even if it meant that I was going to crash and burn at the end. I was going to give it my all.

Miles 1-5 went by quickly. The course was flat and fast along the Embarcadero and temperatures were perfect. Overcast and cool. My pace was right on track and I was feeling great.

We started climbing at mile 6 to get up to the Golden Gate Bridge. I saw the climb from the distance and mentally got ready to drive up hill and pump my arms. My pace slowed significantly, but I finished the hill without feeling winded and knew that I would make up time on the downhill. Miles 6-10 were on an out and back on the Golden Gate Bridge and I got back on track despite the rolling hills. Running on the bridge was eerily blissful. The mist blanketed my whole body and fog surrounded the whole bridge. At this point I was running without music so I soaked in all of my natural surroundings. (I was planning on turning on my music after mile 14 for a bunch needed second half boost.)
Then came miles 10-15, which were a few of my favorite miles. Crowd support for the first half marathon was super. I high fived chains of people and had a HUGE smile on my face, almost forgetting that I was running a marathon and still had 16 miles to go. Starting around mile 12 I started falling off pace a little bit, but ended up keeping that pace for a few miles. I clocked right at 1:50 at the half and knew that I needed to run massive negative splits to hit a 3:35. Knowingly accepting that it wasn't going to happen, I focused on having a great run and feeding off the energy of the course support. My left ankle started hurting at this point, right around where I tie my shoe laces; instead of stopping, I decided to run through the pain.

We looped around the Golden Gate Park for a few miles and hit some rolling hills. Fortunately I was somewhat knowledgeable about the elevation here; I had run a Turkey Trot and walked around the park after Bay to Breakers. At this point I turned on my music and had a great mental boost, but the music soon stopped as my iPod ran out of batter after a quick 20 minutes. (I thought I had fully charged it?) The muscle fatigue started to set in and my body definitely knew I was running a marathon. I employed a strategy and started walking through aid stations to catch my breath. (I definitely think this strategy works!) I stopped at mile 17 to retie my left shoe lace in hopes of making my ankle feel a little better. It worked for the next few miles.

I never really hit the wall. Exhausted but still happy describes exactly how I felt. I saw my mom and brother at mile 20 on Haight street which was absolutely amazing. I had NO idea where they'd be on the course; we never talked about it before and it was such a surprise to see them. Due to my excitement, I ran mile 21 a lot faster. The last 10k was especially excruciating for my left foot. With each step on the gradual downhill, I thought my foot was going to fall off.

I'm still disappointed with miles 23-26; I really didn't want any miles over a 10 minute pace. I definitely did NOT need the two walking breaks I took but I sure as hell wanted them. At the mile 25 mile mark I told myself I'd run it in all the way, no matter how quickly or slowly it took. I did not want spectators watching me walk. Looking back on it, considering that the last .61 miles were at an 8:37 pace, I don't think I gave it my all which is quite defeating. (Dang it, I thought I was running the tangents but I guess running a perfect 26.2 is near impossible.) But no marathon is without the mental and physical struggle of pushing your body and soul to the next level. For future races, I definitely want to work on not getting too emotional during the last 10k and accept the pain.

And here's what we've all been waiting for...

Obviously no AG win here or BQ. The 19 and under competition is much easier; not many teenagers tackle on the daunting marathon and I was fortunate enough to have the privilege of getting an award in STL.

However, I still ran a 3:49 on a tough, hilly course just 3 months after my first marathon. With a flat, fast course and more speed work, I definitely think a BQ is calling my name in the future. I'll have to work hard, but hard work pays off. To say that I'm thrilled with a 7 minute PR would be an understatement. I'm still riding the post-marathon adrenaline rush 36 hours later and loving the sport more than ever. I ran in honor of Alan and Gabby, two talented runners whose lives were tragically cut short. With each name written clearly on my arms, whenever I had any ounce of self doubt (read: walking breaks) all I had to do was look down and know that they would have cheered me on for a strong finish. Thank you, both of you, for being such wonderful and inspiring people in my life. 

Also a HUGE shout out to my mom and my brother. THE BIGGEST THANK YOU EVER for dealing with my craziness the few days prior to the marathon. I was an absolute wreck; nerves got the best of me. Thank you for waking up at 4 AM on a Sunday and thank you for walking 6 miles to get to Haight Street in the cold for watching me for a good 10 seconds. You two are the best.

Cheering from the start...

To the sweaty finish!

 I'm not really sure what's next. For the first time in about 9 months I have no races scheduled. I'm thinking maybe some 10k's and an attempt at a half marathon PR. We'll see. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats! A 7 minute PR on that course is great! The last miles of a marathon are always going to be the hardest and it is so easy to think after the fact that you could have gone faster. I am sure you will get your BQ soon!