Wednesday, June 3, 2009

4,925th place

Gentle Readers, please indulge me one last post about the marathon, and then I promise to zip my lips, never to speak another word about the subject again... well, until I sign up to run another one.

It was absolutely amazing. I wish that everyone wanted to and could have this unique, mind-over-body experience. And even though the pain of the past two days has made me want to cut my legs off, I'm still riding the post-race high. Even Brad, a bit of a curmudgeon throughout training, remains giddy about the experience. And while he has officially declared his retirement (those of you who are friends with Brad on Facebook know what I'm talking about), I have the slightest glimmer of hope that I may be able to talk him into running another one in a few years. Or maybe I'll run the next one by myself and he'll miss it so much on race day when he comes to cheer me on (and probably run with me) that he'll join me for another one. I can dream, can't I?

I thought of you often, Gentle Readers, throughout the course (I had plenty of time on my hands...). I authored posts in my head as I ran because there are so many details about the experience that I wanted to share with you, but I know that I've forgotten half of them already, as I firmly believe that I crossed into delirium during the hours that it took me to finish. I don't even remember whole segments of the race now. But I do recall tearing up as I glimpsed the finish line, and then sobbing with relief as I crossed it.

In an attempt to be as concise as possible, here are my concluding thoughts on the race and the experience, grouped by category:

The Stats
  • Brad's goal was to break four hours, which he did with a time of 3:53:27 (8:55/mile pace). He placed 2,046 out of 13,328 finishers, which I think is really good! I'm so proud of him!
  • My goal was to finish within an hour of Brad, and I'm happy to report that I did it! He only beat me by 32 minutes! And I shaved five minutes and eight seconds from my Marine Corps Marathon time in 2006. I ran the San Diego marathon in 4:25:39 (10:08/mile pace). I placed 4,925 out of 13,328 finishers.
The Weather
  • How did I not know about Southern California's "May Gray and June Gloom" season??? The weather for the race was PERFECT (high 50s/low 60s, misty/rainy, overcast, and breezy), but it stunk for a vacation. Brad and I spent five days in San Diego and did not see the sun once. Our dreams of lounging by the pool or on the beach disintegrated. We froze during most of our visit. But we still had fun. And we were incredibly thankful for the cool weather on race day.
The Course
  • The bands sprinkled throughout the course really helped to break things up. And wow. The roads on the west coast are so WIDE. There was PLENTY of room for running once you got through the initial crowd at the start line. I didn't have to worry about tripping over anyone.
  • This course covered a lot of ground and we got a great tour of San Diego, which I learned is very spread out. At one point, I think around mile 18 or 19, I glanced across Mission Bay to see the faint San Diego skyline on the very distant horizon, and I thought, "Wait... I came from there? And now I have to run back there?!!"
  • Mile 20 was cruel. At the Marine Corps Marathon, Mile 20 was a huge deal with lots of fanfare. Not so with this race. I saw the Mile 20 marker, located at the base of a fairly steep ramp that we had to climb to cross a bridge. There were no crowds at mile 20. No hoopla. It might as well have been mile 6 or 14 or 22. At the time, I was ticked! But then I witnessed a man proposing to his girlfriend at Mile 20, and I remembered why I love running these races. You see so many cool things!
  • The course was mostly flat, although there was a gradual incline from miles seven through ten, but then we were rewarded with a relaxing downhill run between miles ten and eleven. Just for kicks, I timed that downhill mile and it was my fastest pace of the entire race: 8:30.
  • The crowds were kind of hit or miss. Some areas were deserted and some were crowded. I did enjoy running through residential areas where the locals distributed their own food. Some little girls gave out popsicles. A group of moms distributed oranges.
  • All in all, the course was okay, but I'm not sure that I'd run this particular marathon again. While I appreciated seeing so many different areas, we ran on more highways and freeways than I care to. But, it was a wonderful excuse for a vacation to San Diego!
Notable Thoughts and Moments
  • Brad and I agreed to start sending text messages to each other once he hit mile 20 so that we could encourage each other and also so we'd know where each other was on the course. This helped make the last 6-8 miles much more tolerable!
  • Favorite spectator sign: "Why do your feet hurt so bad? Because you're kicking so much (fanny... NOTE: another word was used on the sign, but you know, I try to keep this a G-rated blog)!"
  • I burst into tears when I saw the mile 17 marker. I have no idea why. Maybe it's because I've always had a fondness for our 17-mile training route.
  • My eyes filled with tears again when I spotted the finish line, which is a little more understandable. It's such a relief to know that you've made it!
  • At mile 11, I witnessed a runner go up to a spectator with a half-eaten banana and ask him for the rest of it. He happily obliged. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
  • Right before mile 23, I spotted a spectator with a small bag of chocolate chip cookies. I ran over to her and asked for one. The sport beans and the GU just weren't doing it for me at that point. I needed more substance. And let me tell you, that cookie was the best one I've ever eaten. That cookie helped to carry me to the finish line. I wish that I could tell the woman thank you.
  • The last six miles of marathons are rough. I was so tempted to walk during the last few miles, not because my head hurt or I had a side cramp or I had a blister, but just because I was tired and lazy. I actually felt great except for heavy, sore legs. But I forced myself to stick to my rule of "no walk breaks except to drink at water stations" and now of course, I'm glad that I stayed strong. But I was running so slowly at that point that I probably could have made faster progress by walking. The way the mind overcomes physical pain just amazes me. I believe that a marathon is so much more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
The Proof

The BEFORE picture:

And, the AFTER picture (looking a little rough, but at least we're still standing):

Notice the small orange ribbon pins that Brad and I are both wearing on our shirts. We wore these pins in memory of our dear friend and fellow marathoner, Brad Whittington, who died unexpectedly after a long run nearly two years ago. He came out to support us at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2006, and even ran with us and fed us gummy bears. We know that he was with us in spirit during this race. Our friend Renee wore her orange pin in memory of BW when she ran her first marathon last fall, so we decided to continue the tradition.

On Monday, our legs felt each of the 26.2 miles that we ran on Sunday, but amazingly enough, our feet and the rest of our bodies felt fine. Yesterday, the pain subsided to a feeling equivalent to running 17 miles. Today, I ache as though I ran ten miles, which means that by tomorrow, my body should be back to normal and I can run again. Except that I won't. I think that I've earned at least one more day off.


Smiling Mama said...

You look amazing in both photos. CONGRATULATIONS!! I'm so totally impressed!!

Organized Living by Amy said...

Congratulations! I can't believe you came back for more!