Wednesday, October 21, 2009

26.2 miles COMPLETE!!!

Tucson Team
Thank you to everyone for your support and encouragement. Together, we raised over $3,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! The Tucson Team raised over $69,000 and over $14 million was raised for LLS at the Nike Women's Marathon!!!
Finding my name on the Niketown window
Overall, it was a great weekend in San Francisco. The weather was perfect - not too hot, not too cold, not too windy! (It rained on Monday when we were leaving but otherwise the weather was gorgeous all weekend.)

Riding the cable cars with Jennifer, Crystal & Elsbeth

We started the race at Union Square and I was able to start with 3 of my teammates from Tucson - Jennifer Henderson (J-Hen), Elsbeth and Amanda. The weather was warm enough that we all turned in our jackets at the gear check bus and then the wind decided to pick up while we waited in line for the bathroom. Oh well, a little bonding via a huddle for warmth! The 4 of us ran together for the first few miles and then we lost Amanda to a pit stop. I continued with J-Hen & Elsbeth for the first half of the race.

Hills... what can I say about them? I must have a mental block about the hills from last year because we ran the same course but I do not remember some of those hills being that steep or that long! And now I will block them out again :-) For the most part, once you got to the top of a hill, you get a great view of the city, the bay, the ocean, a nice neighborhood or something that made it worth the climb!
Hill by Ghiradelli Square, very steep!
The Golden Gate Bridge decided to be under fog the morning of our run, only the supports peaked out at us through the fog. I snapped a couple photos of the supports but didn't stop to take a picture by the bridge like last year since it was hiding. I did get a couple great shots the day before when we took the cable cars to Fisherman's Wharf & Ghiradelli Square (yes, I brought chocolate home!).
Can you see it? The Golden Gate Bridge is in there somewhere (my head at the bottom right)
At the top of a long, brutal hill we found our coach Ashley. Our coaches have a way of showing up just when you need them! Ashley ran with us for a couple miles, through a neighborhood with plenty of rolling hills. Then it was just the 3 of us for the next couple miles until we broke apart from each other around the half way point.

Coach Ashley running with the other Jennifer
Going into the race, I didn't know if my hip would give me trouble like it had during training. I was mentally prepared to take the half marathon cut-off (we all start together and then between mile 10 & 11, we break apart) but knew that I wanted to do the full marathon if my body permitted me to do it! When I broke apart from the other ladies, I was really tired and wondered if I made the right decision...

I made my way through Golden Gate Park on the way to the Great Highway. Just before the Great Highway, the sun peaked through the clouds and marine layer. I thought to myself " this is going to suck if it's sunny today." Luckily, the sun went back behind the clouds for the rest of my run!

Nothing much to report from the Great Highway, part 1. It was pretty flat and there were a number of spectactor so that helped me keep moving. There is a steep hill at the end of the Great Highway that leads into Lake Merced. The lake nearly killed me last year and I didn't want the same to happen again this year.

Just as I was about to turn into the lake, I looked up and found Coach Glin!!! Like I said, just when you need them, our coaches are there! I told Glin I wasn't going to let the lake conquer me this year...

I was cruising along the lake - which is the worst part of the marathon, nothing to look at and none of the cheerleaders or bands from earlier in the course - I passed my roommate for the weekend Susan. She was kicking butt! I cheered her on and kept going. Around mile 21, I found our coordinator Louanne and gave her a big hug! She was part of a TNT cheer group that was dressed in hula skirts so I found her at mile 4 and mile 21! A little after I passed Louanne, I got my Ghardelli chocolate squares (put them in my pocket, there's no way I could have eaten them then) and then I saw my mentee Michelle. She was also doing great so I said hi and cheered for her. Still cruising along...

Until just before mile 22! My hamstrings had been tight all weekend and were tight during the race. I guess they made my quads work overtime because heading up a hill to the mile 22 sign, my lower quads (near the knees) started cramping up. I told myself, "let's make it to the top of this hill and then deal with the cramping." My quads had a different idea than I did. They seized up about halfway up the hill. I hobbled off to the side and stretched them. I made it to the top of the hill and just on the other side, I spotted Coach Ashley again!!! Just when I really needed her. I told her about my quads and she gave me some salt - which helped some.

The lake got me when I had just over a mile and a half before I got back to the Great Highway! I conquered part of it this year. One of my teammates described it as a soul sucker and it really is. That part of the marathon is tough already because it is where most people hit their "wall" anyway. About 3/4 of a mile before I got back to the Great Highway, I spotted Coach Glin again! He ran with me for a minute or so and told me I was almost out of the lake.

There's another steep hill coming out of the lake to get back onto the Great Highway. I ran as much of it as my quads would allow and then powerwalked the rest. I had to run as far as I could and then take a walk break for the rest of the marathon.

During the marathon, I texted my husband Dan with my location & how I was feeling. I love having a qwerty keyboard with my phone! For example, "10 full" meant I passed mile 10 and I planned to do the full. Other texts were "14 tiiired" and "22 cramping" (except I missed the "m" so he got a whole different meaning!). A couple of times I texted him my mileage and time - "18 in 3:21" and "21 in 3:56". He gave me encouraging feedback and also told me how I was doing in fantasy football (I won!) and also said "if you pick it up a bit, you can break 5 hours". My brain was incapable of doing math (I knew I was making good time but not my exact pace) at that point and what he said really stuck with me.

For the last 3 miles of the race, I kept looking at my watch, trying to figure out if I could break the ever-ellusive 5 hour mark. Before race day, my fastest marathon was my first (Nike '09 was my 6th) with a time of 5:02:47... I kept up my run as far as possible then walk quickly for a bit. But what Dan said kept nagging at me. I couldn't figure out if I could do it or not...

For those of you that have never run a marathon or half-marathon, there are spectators & volunteers that think they are encouraging and supportive by telling you that you are almost there. More often than not, you are NOT almost there. So when I heard someone say "the finishline is just up ahead" I didn't know whether to believe them or not. I couldn't see the finish line, I had about 3 minutes (according to my watch) to finish under 5 hours and I only had so much left in me at that point. The spectators had moved onto the street so only a couple runners could fit through at a time and it blocked the view of the finishline.

I decided to believe that guy and picked up my pace. I saw the finishline ahead of me and I had just under 2 minutes to cross that finishline. I used up every last bit of strength and energy I had left and booked it to the finishline. I passed several people on my way there and I finished in...

...wait for it...

...wait for it...

4:59:17!!!!!! I finished 43 seconds under 5 hours and set a PR (personal record)! I broke my 2006 Tucson Marathon time by 3 minutes and 30 seconds. If that finishline had been 100 feet further away, I might not have made it or might have given myself an asthma attack but I made it!

Getting my Tiffany's finisher's necklace from the fire fighter

The entire Tucson team had a great day too!!! Everyone finished!

Amanda, Michelle, Elsbeth (top row) Jennifer (J-Hen), me, Ashley (bottom row)

Photos from the weekend can be seen here: There are over 160 of them!