July 27, 2009

Racing up, down, and around SF

Here's an epic report of the 2009 San Francisco marathon, but if you want the hilariously short version, view this video!

Night before:
After a very slothful Saturday, I enjoyed a pasta dinner at home with Trader Joe's marinara sauce and red velvet cake from the Grand Lake farmers market for dessert! I got in bed before 10pm and actually managed to fall asleep without too much tossing and turning.

Rise and Shine:
I woke up with my 3:45 am alarm. I chugged some water, made coffee and toast with peanut butter and watched a few minutes of Valley Girl on tv (who knew that great 80s movies would be on at 3 am?!?). I took a quick, hot shower to help warm up. I got dressed and sunscreened up and felt surprisingly awake and alert. Thanks to adrenaline, it really didn't feel like 4 am. By the time we got in the car, I had the butterflies. Fortunately, the drive to the start was easy, and I only had to walk a couple blocks to the starting area and, oh so important, porta potties! After taking care of business, I walked and hopped around to get a little blood flowing and burn off nervous energy, and waited for Jenica in the dark with a zillion other runners doing their thang.

We lined up together in the 4-4:15 corral with full and half marathoners mixed together. I need to mention that races that combine fulls and halfs are kind of demoralizing for fullers. It's really not fair to see the halfers at mile 12- they have 1 mile to complete, but you have 14 to crank through. And at mile 20- they've done 7 miles, while your leggies have already done 20.

Start it Up: Miles 1-4
I stuck to my race plan for the first few miles. I kept reminding myself that it should feel too easy. If the pace felt at all hard, I forced myself to relax and jog a few steps. My breathing was easy and there wasn't a niggle or ache in the leggies. It was quite grey and cool- absolutely perfect running weather. I tried my best to run in straight lines and not do too much sprinting around people or weaving around because that only wastes energy and adds mileage.

Over and back the Golden Gate Bridge: Miles 5-10
Crossing the bridge was hectic, to say the least. I couldn't get in a relaxed groove because we were so packed on the bridge. Not everybody was so-well versed in race etiquette; there were walkers on the left and people stopping to take photos. So I had to dodge some mayhem. I felt really strong around mile 8 and ran with a really nice woman from BC, Canada, which was a great distraction.

Happy Miles: Miles 11-12
I worked hard getting up the Presidio Hill but had a blast cruising downhill toward Baker Beach, which was the most scenic part of the race course. The Pacific Ocean looked rad. I turned on my iPod, enjoyed the playlist, and found a good groove. These miles were pure flow because they felt more like a dance than a run.

In Da Park: Miles 13-19
I admit that the downhill through the park was fun, and I felt strong and terrific at mile 12ish. I looked around and was proud to be surrounded by other tenacious runners and was feeling confident in my ability to hang on! In fact, it was feeling too easy, but I told myself to concentrate on these middle miles of the race. Then there was an interminable, gradual climb through the park with the 2nd half marathoners. We had to read a bunch of signs to stay on course, and, at one point, I thought I'd gone in the wrong directions and almost broke down. But then I realized that I *was* on track with the full marathoners. Oh lordy, so many miles in that park. To add insult to injury, I've trained so much in that park so the views didn't provide any distraction.

Haight Street: Miles 20-21
I had some pep at the beginning of Haight Street because I was stoked to have exited the never-ending Golden Gate park. My legs still felt decent , and I think my music and the mile 17 roctane was helping me. I was smiling and encouraging other runners, which also motivated me.

Mission Runpossible: Miles 21-22
Running down 16th street is when things got a bit weird...A bit past Mission St., I noticed that my visor was sliding down over my eyes, so I had to keep pushing it up. This had never happened before on any long runs, so I was a little annoyed and took my visor off. This might not sound like *that* much of a big deal, but you can ask anyone, I wear a hat or visor for 98% of my runs. Therefore, in hindsight, I'm deeming the visor removal around mile 21.5 as the beginning of the wall. I just don't think my brain worked quite right after this point!!

Potrero H-E-L-L & Dog Patch: Miles 22-24
To be fair, the Potrero neighborhood is totally rad (ie- delish Goat Hill pizza!). Plus, a friend from grad school was oh so nice to come out on Connecticut St. (at mile 23) to cheer me on (thanks, Lisa!). But, honestly, I was in my own personal runners hell during the segment through the Potrero Hill and Dogpatch neighborhoods of SF. There were some odd hills and plenty of turns. Yes, my legs were moving. In fact, I felt like I was working really, really hard to eek out a slooow pace. Oh well. I was progressing along the course and not stopping. Just telling myself to go another mile. I was staring at the ground.

At that point, there wasn't that much reflection or body-checks happening, and I'd forgotten about the various strategies for dealing with handling long runs. In future races, I'd love to remember to use my strategies to dig deep, breathe deeply, and say positive mantras during the final miles (I honestly think that's the #1 thing I need to work on!).

Ball Park: Mile 25
Yeah, I could see AT & T Park for awhile before getting there (due to the sloooowed down pace). I think I recall 'Highway to Hell' playing on my iPod- yikes! At this point, my breathing felt strange- somewhere between a hair ball (well, what I imagine a hair ball feels like for my cat, Amiga) and an asthma attack (which I've never really had). I actually forced myself to slow down to remind myself to breathe in and exhale; it was almost like I lacked the coordination of my nose, mouth, lungs, etc.

I was definitely looking forward to seeing that baseball stadium because I knew that meant that I had just another mile to survive. You'd think I was a crazed Giants fan or something, but I'm not! I ran for a little while with a really nice woman with long braids. We encouraged each other, and she was so sweet. It was helpful to get the positivity at this point in the race. After passing the stadium, I tried to figure out how to pull myself together so Jeff (who was going to be spectating around mile 26) wouldn't think I'd totally lost it. At one point, I was going to beg him to walk with me. Then I told myself that I needed to pick it up and force the speed when I saw him. But I also *had* to share with him that I was in pain. Don't know why, but it was really helpful to tell the hubby that I was suffering. I suppose I needed him to carry a bit of the exhausted pain for me :(

Finito: Mile 26
With the finish line in sight, I knew I needed to book it to get in under 4:20. I kicked and couldn't really feel my legs but focused on the big finish line banner and finished in 4:19:30. I'm proud to report that I finished in the top 30% of female finishers.

A fun statistic is that, according to Garmalade, I actually ran 26.6 miles (dang those extra .4 miles!) at an average pace of 9:46 min/mile, so if I'd run exactly 26.2 miles at that pace, my finish time would have been a smokin' 4:15!

The post-race celebration included fried chicken at Luka's plus grapefruit cocktails to die (or run 26.6 miles) for! And about 36 hours post-race, I have extraordinarily sore hamstrings and quads but I can say that I still love running and crazily want to complete more marathons ;)

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on the personal best Sarah - we were thinking of you and checked in on your time on the website after Hazel let us sleep in yesterday morning to an extraordinarily late 11am!