Monday, July 27, 2009

Sing to Me of Heaven

Sing to me of Heaven
Let me fondly dream
Of it's golden glory
Of it's pearly gleam

I had 2 songs picked out for my marathon on Sunday. Nickleback's "If Today Was Your Last Day", and Lady Antebellum's "I Run to You". I spent considerable time getting these songs into my pea-brain. It was all for not.

A group of us Landrunners flew out West this last weekend to run in the San Francisco marathon. Little thing, you may have heard of it, or maybe now. Anyway, we thought it would be fun to go out and run across the Golden Gate bridge. Nice change of scenery from Oklahoma. Our bridges have no gates, nor do they have gold. After a marathon sweep of the country from Oklahoma to New York back to Oklahoma then to Florida, I hoped on an airplane to San Francisco Friday and got into town around 10:30 Friday night. I was a bit tired.

Saturday we slept in a little and then my buddy and I went for a nice little run down to the start/finish area just to check things out. Did I mention my buddy runs really, really fast? He does and we did. It actually felt really good to let the legs go free after so many weeks of non-running and only a few days of easy running. I think we did a little less than 4 miles and enjoyed the weather and the scenery a lot. San Francisco has such great running weather. I'm not a big fan of cloudy and cold but it is nice to run races in. Give me 110 and sunny for training but come race day I'll take 60 and overcast with a little mist any day!

After our little run and massive amounts of Starbucks, we met up with the rest of the group and headed over to the expo to check in and find reasons to buy absolutely necessary worthless running junk like I do every expo! I was also excited because I was going to meet up with Southbay Girl again! She had come up for the race this year and I couldn't wait to see her again. Always nice to see the face behind the pixels. She even brought someone new for me to meet. Jo Lynn, ultimate-trail-runner-extraordinaire, came too! Very cool. We had a nice brief chat and then left to go explore the city before dinner.

Sing to me of Heaven, sing that song of peace,
From the toils that bind me it will bring release;
Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so,
Showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow.

We spent Saturday walking around San Francisco. We also rode trolley cars! Very, very cool! We saw Lombard street and every other hill in San Francisco too I think. They have a lot of hills. More on that later.

Ok so the race....

Got up Sunday not feeling great. I was afraid the traveling and fatigue had caught up with me but that all vanished when I got near the starting line. The energy of marathon morning is intoxicating! I fed off of it! I went from feeling down to riding high and was determined to make the most of it. If I couldn't have my own energy I'd use the crowds. We met up with SouthBay Girl again and this time she had RBR with her!!! AND, AND, AND IT WAS HER BIRTHDAY! How freaking cool is that! She was turning 29 and was fully decked out in a Boa and tierra (on top of the pink hat of course). She hadn't changed a bit and I got even more energy from just being around her.

We all decided to start in the same corral. My buddy should have been one higher but he's such a great guy that he moved back into mine. We told SouthBay Girl and RBR that we would run with them. They didn't' believe us. Damn, hate it when they're right! We didn't last 100 yards. The excitement got the best of us and we were off through the crowds making a decent pace up the Embarcadero, dodging people and taking in the early morning San Francisco scenery. We were running slow for my buddy's pace but I think he was holding back both for me and for the fear of the hills to come.

On our way up to the bridge we got hit with some sprinklers around Ft. Mason! Big sprinklers! Like totally gushing water-fall sprinklers. I was cold. Now I was wet and cold. Yippee! Laughed that off but it was still an annoyance. We had a lot of trouble this year dodging people. It seemed much more crowded than it did last year. This hurt our pace a little but again, I think it may have helped us later in the race.

The group that I came with had asked me earlier about the hills in San Francisco. I told them on many occasions that I didn't remember the hills being all that bad. I also remembered the hills were worse in the second 1/2 than in the first. Funny thing, I say lots of things and no one usually remembers what I say. Every one of my group mentioned my previous, EXTREMELY INACCURATE comments following this year's race! OMG, San Francisco has mega hills in the first half of the marathon! What was I smoking last year when I ran this?? I honestly didn't remember all those hills. I SURE HAS HECK REMEMBER THEM NOW!

So them hills. Yes, there were hills, San Francisco has hills OK? Geesh, I know that. We hit the first one in The Presidio and it wasn't too bad. The next one was the one leading up to the bridge and it was pretty tough. Long, twisting climb up to the toll gates. A fellow climb-sufferer noticed my Oklahoma shirt and commented that we probably didn't have any hills like this back there. A-ha-ha-ha-ha buddy, aren't you just a funny one! Bite me, I'm dying here OK?

The bridge was absolutely fabulous as it always is! Foggy but a wonderful experience anyway. A little more crowded this year so lots of people dodging but still got some great pictures. We kept a good pace when we could but really got stuck behind the crowds a couple times.

After the bridge the real running started. There's another monster hill shortly after the bridge and we took a beating on it. I lost my buddy somewhere near the top. I think he slowed up for the water station which I didn't dare do because I was afraid of rolling backwards into the bay if I did. Where the heck was this hill last year!!! Geesh! So I ran the next few miles alone and tried to get a nice easy pace going. I fell comfortably into a 8:30 pace so I was still doing good and feeling good. Some more rolling hills and we entered the Golden Gate park.

2nd Sidebar
If a little Japanese man comes out on the race course with a pie plate and tells you to hit it, don't let your ego get the best of you. Hitting a metal pie plate with your knuckles on mile 10 of a marathon hurts like hell! No motivation in that.

I had planned my normal Gel strategy of mile 7, 16, 20-22 and had got the 7 miler down on time but I began to feel the need for another shot around mile 11. I was worried about bottoming out so I took it then but immediately was concerned about only having 1 Gel left with 15 miles to go. I decided I'd grab a Gu at the first water stop that had them and take it last and maybe it wouldn't hurt me as much then.

My buddy caught me as we were heading into the park. We went through the half at about 1:53 which was a little slower than planned but we were OK with that considering the hills. I still felt good. I knew I was fighting it and it was hurting but I still had my head on and was in the game so I just prayed it would continue.

Gotta give a shout-out to the Hash House Harriers! I love these people! They give out beer every year and it's wonderful. A little PBR at mile 16 or 17 is a great boost to the system and they are so energetic too that you have to run good when around them. Great bunch of people.

I started bottoming out again shortly after mile 17 so I took my last Gel but I was a little late since my pace slowed and I lost my partner. He continued on as I slowed a bit waiting for the oozing goodness to seep into my veins and bring on those good feelings again. It finally kicked in as I was leaving the park and getting back up on the streets around mile 19. I lost a considerable amount of time but was still running and now had run through 2 low points in this race so I had some confidence in my ability to face down that demon. Things were looking up! My pace picked up and I got my head back in the game. Went through mile 20 in 2:54 which I was completely excited about. My best 20 mile time on a training run is 2:50 so I knew I was running right where I needed to be. I hadn't been keeping good mile splits so it was nice to see that I was on schedule for a good finish.

Miles 20 through 23 went pretty quick and I was running strong. It hurt a lot and I was enjoying it. It was that wonderful feeling you have when you feel the pain but you know you can push through it. I love that. I search for that feeling. Makes me feel alive, like I actually have some control over this bag of bones. I WAS ALIVE! I hurt so bad but I was feeling so good. That's what I look for every marathon. Sometime I only get one or the other but when I get them both it's the most amazing feeling in the world and it's better than crack!

Anyway, I was feeling so good and keeping a good sub-9 minute pace but I could feel another low coming on. I took the Gu I had swiped for the last water stop but I didn't have any water and I desperately needed some. I was having a terrible thirst after that Gu and I kept waiting for water around every corner but kept finding nothing! I finally found some water just after mile 24. I was really hurting though so I stopped to get a little extra. HOLY CRAP bad idea! My knees hurt so bad when I stopped! I immediately took off again for fear of becoming totally unable to run.

Once I started running the pain went away which was totally awesome! I was so into this marathon, I can't explain how much I was enjoying this experience. I had pushed through barriers, I was experiencing pain and getting over it and through it. This was an experience, not just another run and I was completely in it. My head was swimming through the waves of emotions and thoughts. Somewhere after mile 24 I noticed Paula was just passing through 3:30 so I knew I was right on pace to match or beat 2008's time of 3:50. less than 2 miles to go and I had 20 minutes to get it done and set a new course PR. Thing were going great.

Then it all fell apart and I'm still not sure what went wrong. All I have in my head is that I quit. Yes, that's right, the "Run Fearless", "Live life to the fullest" guy quit on himself somewhere after mile 24 in San Francisco. I guess the lack of energy and the delayed water put a hurting on me and when I expected to recover like I'd done before I just didn't. I hit the bottom and couldn't get up again. This was the defining moment of possibly the greatest experience of my running life and I failed. I had this race, I had it! I'd overcame hurdles and pushed through the pain and was ready to finish this thing off when my mind slipped for just a second and it was gone. I gave away all those wonderful gains I'd made before. I stopped running. Just stopped, don't even really remember doing it but I knew I had. My head was spinning and I couldn't even fight it. That "in-control" side of me left or was beaten. I was thoughtless and energy-less. My arms weighed a ton and my head was broken forward. I walked.

And walked.
And walked.

I walked from just after mile 24 to the finish. I walked past the cheering crowds who shouted for me to run. I walked past the little grassy patches of park where I almost stopped and quit completely. They looked so inviting and I was just so tired. I walked down Embarcadero towards the finish line. When I got close enough that I could hear the announcer I finally regained my senses. I guess Bart Yasso's voice jolted me back to reality. I was still walking but I had my head back a little and eventually I jogged across the finish line. Paula said 4:01:26.

The last 2 miles took me over 30 minutes.

Sing to me of Heaven, tenderly and low,
Till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go;
When my heart is weary, when the day is long,
Sing to me of Heaven, sing that old, sweet song.

I do remember one thing from my walk though. There was a Mexican band playing near where I lost it. The singer was speaking Spanish right up until I am near and then he yelled to the crowd, "Are you dead or are you alive!" They all cheered. He wasn't talking to or about me but in hind-sight I wonder if that wasn't my inner voice trying to wake me out of my trance. Problem was I couldn't hear it. I had already quit.

Now let me say that a 4:01 in San Francisco is a GREAT time. I'm totally OK with that time. What I'm not OK with and what I still have to get my mind around is that I faced down a demon and lost. I had the opportunity to push through and I didn't do it.

After the race I found a quiet spot and covered myself with the Mylar blanket. I was way to emotional to be around anyone else. Everything came at me and the full weight of what had just happened sank it. I need to make some changes. I need to get on a better path.

Eventually I got what was left of my carbon-based shell together and found my buddy. He had had a tough race too and was ready to hit the showers and start the post-marathon celebration. I swallowed my emotions for later days and joined him whole-heatedly. No need to dwell on something I neither understood nor could remedy. I had my shot and I blew it, no second chances. Move on!

We had a ball! I met up with SouthBay Girl and RBR for lunch where we swapped stories about the race. Those two had a ball! They had so much fun and have the pictures to prove it. They may be banned from San Francisco and may have offended some people too but DAMN they enjoyed the hell out of that race. I love it! I couldn't have been blessed with better blog friends.

Later we met up with our Oklahoma group at a local Irish pub so they could beat me up some more about how "flat" this course was. After this we desperately needed chocolate so we took the bus down to the Ghirardelli factory for some free samples. Then we hit the sourdough bread company for Crab and Corn chowder in a bread bowl! That's what I'd been waiting for all along. I was completely full and could only enjoy a little of it but it was the perfect completion to my trip.

I sometimes wonder if God doesn't get to feeling like I feel sometimes with my kids. You want so badly for them to do the right thing and you also want them to find it on their own. You can let them go only so far though before you just have to step in and take over for a bit to put them back on track. I had great plans for this day and they weren't fulfilled. I wasn't even able to pick the song in my head.

With that said, I really think I got just what I needed.

Pictures are posted above, stats below.

1485 out of 5036

1199 out of 3326

M 35-39:
229 out of 568

51.81% Place: 2240

4:01:24 Pace: 9:13

Tag Time:

7.6 Mi:
1:06:48 Pace: 8:48

1:53:58 Pace: 8:42

20 mi:
2:54:38 Pace: 8:44

Thanks for listening


Reese said...

Great job, you finished and I read RBR's account so I know you had fun.

RBR said...

Man, you are hard on yourself! It was an honor to run 4 and a half feet with you. ;o)

You are such a rockstar and I am so glad we got to see each other again!

Thank you for making my birthday marathon a BLAST!

29. Flattery and bald face lying with get you everywhere ;o)

Anonymous said...

Glad you finished the race. I think you have found your motivation to return there next year. Also, thanks for being real on this blog. It's not always happy, pretty, etc. which gives people like me more points of connection with your writings.

Jo Lynn said...

Hey Mister!
I enjoyed meeting you. And thanks for the nice compliment. ;)

Good job on the race (no matter what you think).

I hope our paths cross again but this time I'm running.

under my own steam said...

Hey dude,

I think you're a rockstar too. I'm sorry those last couple of miles got ya. Take heart - you did face down other demons to get you to that point. And, I hope in the coming days you are inspired to figure out the demons of the last couple of miles. You certainly do inspire me. Thanks for sharing.

Terri said...

Willie, so sorry it's taken me this long to get to commenting on your race report. I started reading it before I went away on vacation, and then didn't get a chance to write anything, so I'm sorry.

Despite those last couple of miles, I think you did an amazing thing. And what you can take away from this, eventually, is more knowledge about yourself. And what makes you tick, or doesn't. You'll eventually figure that out, I have faith in you.

Always makes me laugh when I see that you've named your watch Paula. It's like she was taunting you at the 3:30 time.