Thursday, August 7, 2008

San Francisco Marathon Report

San Francisco Marathon race report.

I enjoyed my time with RBR so much that I didn't return to my hotel the night before the marathon until almost 10 PM. This was not good since I had flown into town the night before at midnight. I hadn't had a good nights sleep for days and was hoping to get to bed early the night before the race. Oh well, it was worth it.

I decided to wake up at 3:30 in order to get downtown and park well before my 5:45 start time. Luckily I didn't lay in bed for long before I was out. I slept well and was easily up with the wake-up call and dressed in my Oklahoma attire. I did all my ritualistic pre-marathon routines which I will spare you the details of. 

I jumped in the car and headed downtown. It was then that I learned that San Francisco is not much different than Oklahoma city at 4:00 AM. There was no traffic and plenty of parking spaces very near the start. Great! Now what do I do for an hour and 45 minutes? I decided to take a nap in the car for awhile and then head down to check in my gear. 

After my nap I wandered down to the start. I stole a bottle of water from the volunteer's tent (sorry! I was thirsty) and promised to help someone during the race to at least earn it. There wasn't even a line at the Porto-potties! What marathon doesn't have a line at the Porto-potties??? I've run small town 5ks where I had to wait for a chance to partake of the wonderful sights and smells of portable toilets!! Not in San Francisco at 5:00 AM! I'm sure they filled up later. 

I ventured over to the start line and took some pictures. The bay bridge was lit up and looked great so I got a picture of it also. I even had a nice lady take my picture in front of the start. I was amazingly calm which rare for me before a marathon. I was just so happy to be there and have the ability to run a marathon in such a wonderful city. I guess I was in a thankful mood more than a competitive one. I hope I'm not becoming a softy!! 

I took my pain killers, stocked up my Race Ready shorts with E-Gel and my cell phone and checked my bag. I should have known there would be trouble when they took my bag and immediately threw it (I'm not kidding) back to a young man who caught it and put in on a pile with the rest of the bags. Not much of a system. I then went up the street a distance to get a good view of the start of the elites. They were starting at 5:20 so I had some time to get some pictures before I had to start. I pushed my way to the front and watched as the REALLY fast people took off. Unfortunately my cell phone camera wasn't fast enough to catch a good shot of the speedsters in the dark but it was cool to watch. These guys and gals were taking off like they were in a 5K! More power to them, I'll be in the back. 

Eventually we started and I settled into a nice pace with the rest of wave 4. I think this wave starting thing is great. I didn't have to walk to the start line and was running immediately with plenty of room around me. We were heading down the road that runs along the bay (Embarcedado?) and the views were cool even at night. I tried to stay near the 3:50 pace group but didn't really care since it was still way to early. I stopped a couple times to take pictures of Alcatraz and the bay once the sun started to come up. Near the end of the road we ran by the Sourdough bread company which was torture because it smelled WONDERFUL! I slowed up some to get more of the smell. I can't help it I LOVE BREAD! 

At the end of the bay road we got on the sidewalk and ran out right along the water at some amphitheater looking thing. We then hit a road again and our first hill! It was short but steep. I took a picture and sent it to Southbay girl who immediately responded that I hadn't even gotten to the hills yet. Great, it only gets worse. By this time the sun was up behind the clouds and the Golden Gate was in sight so I stopped repeatedly to take pictures. One guy offered to take my picture with the bridge in the background but I refused. I was a little self-conscious about acting like a tourist in the middle of a marathon. I knew I was being laughed at for stopping every 100 yards so I didn't want to push it. He laughed and I said that I was in San Francisco to see the bridge and I just needed a marathon to blame my trip on! 

As we approached the bridge we had... you guessed it... more hills. This was a sign of things to come. Most weren't bad and I was up and over them quickly. 

Then we got to the bridge. It was really cool to run past the toll booths and out onto the Golden Gate. It was a little surreal for me. I think I was in a daze for a few minutes but I recovered and reminded myself that I was really doing this. SO COOL! They put us in one lane of the bridge so we were a little crowded but not bad. I was able to run normally just couldn't stop because I would have been trampled. I took pictures, I sent texts, and I took in the moment. I forgot I was running. I felt so good I was running on air. This is what I had come for and now it was happening. Usually I am depressed at moments like these since there is nothing left to look forward to but not this time. I was up, I was alive, and I was running.

I took my first E-Gel at mile 8 coming back across the bridge. I was feeling great and my legs had loosened up. After I had a brief text conversation with my son back in Ohio I put the phone away and decided it was time to race. This was mile 10. I kicked in a little speed and slipped under 8 min/mile still feeling good. We entered a park right after the bridge (and some more rolling hills). This is where it got kinda boring. I'm not sure if it was the lack of crowd support or whether I was just coming down off my bridge induced high but I was having trouble staying focused. I was still feeling good but I couldn't get lost in my thoughts like I usually do. I kept looking at my watch monitoring my pace way too much. I went through the half at 1:51 by my Garmin. I noticed that my Garmin distance and the race course distance markers were beginning to get further and further off. Garmin was about .2 miles ahead of the markers. It was interesting at this point in the race but would become a point of much anger later.

I was well ahead of the 3:50 pace group at mile 14. I was holding off on my second E-Gel until mile 16 since that had worked for me in the OKC marathon. I was still running strong and feeling OK when all of a sudden I had a thought of walking. Where did that come from? Then I started feeling tired, my head started hanging low and my legs felt heavy. What the F---! I stopped and walked. I was completely drained. I was having horrible thoughts of a bad finishing time. I took my E-Gel and kept walking. I tried to stop thinking. I tried to breath deep. I tried to relax. Still walking. Still tired. When the 3:50 pacer (it was a different person! They had swapped out at the 1/2. Jerks!), I tried to jog with them. it was horrible at first but eventually the energy kicked in and I was back on pace. My spirits improved and I was able to get lost in my mind again. Even now I'm not sure what happened. I suppose I waited too long for the E-Gel and I hit the wall but I think it was a lack of mental toughness due to no long run training. Getting your mind to ignore pain and fatigue is something I had to learn and it requires practice to keep it. 

So I ran with the 3:50 group for awhile. Around mile 17 I fell into a faster pace though and left them again. I was nervous about this but figured I had nothing to lose. I was only running 8:30's so It wasn't that fast. 

I kept a good pace through mile 19. When we got out of the park and into town we hit those hills again. It seemed like every time we went around a turn we went up hill! The only saving grace was that we usually had a downhill on the other side. Still though, those up and down hills were taking a toll on my thighs. I could already feel them burning which I had never felt before. I knew I asking them to do things they were not used to. By mile 20 I was spending more energy trying to maintain my pace than normal and I knew I was in trouble. It wasn't the kind a trouble you could slow down and recover from either. It was that feeling that I was nearing empty and there was nothing left in the tank once it's gone. I took a picture of the 20 mile marker and sent it to a group of people with the text "hurting". It was a plea for support. I was running on fumes and I knew it. I immediately got responses, it was so cool! Thank you guys so much, you may never know how much those words helped. 

It was during these last miles that I started getting upset with Garmin and the mile markers. I always play a mind game with myself when I'm tired where once I cross a mile marker I immediately round down the miles to go. So if I get to the 22 mile marker I figure I am at mile 22.something so I really only have 3 miles to go. It works well for me usually. Well now I had Garmin beeping mile 22 at me a quarter of a mile before I saw the marker. So I would get in my zone of rounding and just about the time my mind was giving in to this little lie, I would see the marker for 22 and lose all hope again! It basically threw off my game and I couldn't focus. Guess I need more than one mind game to play. 

I refused to walk. I was shuffling along at just under 9 min/mile with my head down. I was watching the sweat drip off the brim of my hat. It was amazingly consistent. I was desperate for something to help me disconnect from the pain. I was latching onto other runners and watching their shoes, I was trying to find a song in my head, trying to keep my feet moving. I took 2 E-Gel's in that last 4 miles and I don't remember where. The last one I couldn't stomach. I took one gulp and threw it away. My stomach was overwhelmed. 

The 3:50 pace group caught me just before the 25 mile marker. I tried all I could to stay with them but I just couldn't keep up. This was as we ran past the baseball park and along the bay again. It really was pretty but I couldn't have cared less. My body was done. I really wanted to run strong at the finish because I knew there would be a crowd and I hate to look like a corpse when there are people around. So as I came around the ball park into the street I tried to straighten up and at least give an appearance of being alive. Luckily I was able to see the 26 mile marker and then the finish. This gave me one last push and I was able to run across the line with arms in the air and smiling (very important!!!). Finish time: 3:50. Not great but I'll take it.

The marathon was wonderful and I would absolutely do it again and recommend it to anyone. My thighs really took a beating on the hills and are still sore today. 

I looked around for RBR and crew and eventually found them. I was a mess so I think I scared them a little. They had Starbucks coffee and seeing this I immediately wanted some! I tried to pull myself together and find some shred of dignity but then someone asked what that red stain was on my shirt. I looked down and saw that I had one of those very embarrassing male running issues. My OKC Landrunner shirt has a bad habit of rubbing my chest the wrong way in 2 certain areas. I knew this and tried to take care of it during the first 1/2 of the race but had obviously neglected to check during the second 1/2. Ooops, very embarrassing. The RBR girls obviously didn't know about this condition as they cringed when they figured out what it was. Ok, all dignity gone now I ran for a marathon blanket to cover up! Extreme hit to my self confidence when meeting new people with blood stains on my shirt. Way to go Willie!!! Oh well, I am who I am.

We eventually met up with Calyx and some friends and went back to their lavish hotel room for showers. We then hit the bay for lunch, chit-chat, and pictures. I really enjoyed my time with them and they are all so wonderful. I am blessed to have such great friends.

Thanks for listening


Reese said...

Fantastic job, and you stopped often to take pictures.

Steve Stenzel said...


(too bad about the blood, but I'm kinda giggling over here...)