Back in LA/Recap:
I am back folks. Tired, weary and sore from battle. Sore in places I didn't think I could be sore in.
But I'm smiling. Ear-to-ear.
There's so much I want to write about from my weekend in San Francisco, but I should just stick with the race. While the hills were brutal, the weather gods were looking out for us today. And for that, I am one grateful man.
This was intended to be a marathon that I was just going "run for fun". Hang out and stay with my cousin Frank, spend time in the city I love so much, then run a marathon alongside my cousin and his girlfriend, Leslie.
Boy, it didn't take long to get my competitive juices going and have my attention refocused on taking care of some unfinished business from San Diego in June. Namely, that oh-so-elusive sub-4 hour marathon. A cake walk for the gifted runners out there, a mountain to overcome for a middle-of-the-pack guy like myself.
Here we go.
Wake up call at 4:00am. Actually got a fair amount of sleep for the first time before a big race. Went to bed at 9pm the night before, pre-race jitters only kept me tossing and turning for the next half hour or so. For me, that's pretty good.
Ran a little late this morning because there was only one bathroom to share among the 4 of us (Frank, Leslie, and her friend). We finally made it out the door and hit the starting area by about 5:15am or so. It was still dark out and a little chilly, but not all that bad. I was actually hoping for something colder though.
Even though they'd be running a little slower (1st time marathoners), we all jumped into my wave because we wanted to start out together. Gun went off somewhere between 5:35 and 5:45am and off we went from Embarcadero!
My race strategy coming in was to run the first 10K somewhat conservatively, then do the best I could the remainder of the way, hills and all (in San Diego, I thought I started out a little too conservatively, thus missing my sub-4 there).
The San Francisco Marathon didn't seem to attract as many of the characters as I'd see in a big race like LA or San Diego. But I did immediately run into a Roman soldier before hitting mile 2. After asking permission, I snapped a pic of him and continued on. At the 2.5 mile mark just past Fisherman's Wharf, we hit our first hill. Nothing too crazy but certainly a harbinger of things to come.
Once it came back down, it was fairly flat for awhile as we continued to run right alongside the bay. Then between miles 4 and 5 at Crissy Field, we saw it. In all of her majestic glory: the Golden Gate Bridge.
To get there, we would have to start a steady climb up from mile 5. Once we reached it, we began our path to run the entire length of it, loop around at mile 7.5, and back the way we came passing runners while doing so. Weather wise, I think anyone who was out there would agree that this was the gnarliest part of the run. Unexpected gusts of wind blowing from any which direction both chilled you to the bone, while making you very wary of articles of clothing that might blow off. I snapped the following picture at the turnaround before heading back across the bridge.
Once off the bridge, we passed Baker Beach and hit some hilly neighborhoods (I don't recall which). Just before mile 13 and on through mile 19, we would be running through the Golden Gate Park which I assumed would be my favorite part of the race. Uh uh.
First of all, by the time I reached the halfway point, my calves and hamstrings were already tight from the hills. I started to doubt myself because if I already felt this sore at this point, how could I possibly get through another 13.1? Also, a combination of the rolling hills of the park and lack of crowd support started to get to me. Most of the runners kept to themselves, and while I would ordinary enjoy the silence and get in my own head a bit, it was not a fun place to be in at that moment. I needed a distraction. Conversation. Music. Anything.
Fortunately, I made it out of there at mile 19 and was greeted by a small crowd that immediately gave me a morale boost. My time of 2:55 and change at mile 20, even more so. I'd just need to run the next 10K in under 1:04 to make my sub-4...definitely, definitely doable!
With guarded optimism and an extra spring in my step, I continued on the mile and a half journey down Haight Street in the famed town of Haight Ashbury. With mostly downhills to deal with for the majority of the way and no major cramping yet, I continued to feel relatively good. 'Wall'?...What Wall?
From a little past mile 22, those all too familiar muscle cramps that plagued me in past marathons started up. Like sudden bolts of electricity, it first lightly attacked up my left calf, then my right. For the next 4 miles or so, I was in full-on survival mode.
I'm not going to reveal too much of what went through my head during that time, but I will say that it involved me drawing inspiration from people I'd long admired. That, and an ongoing mantra of "Sub. Four. Sub. Four..." (step, step..)
Not taking for granted anything that can happen, I truly didn't allow myself to believe that I would get my time until home stretch. And boy, despite the cramping, it was truly glorious. I just missed having the clock time read under 4 hours by a few seconds but I know what my Garmin said and I knew my goal into 3-hour territory and another step towards qualifying for Boston (one day) was realized. Was so happy, I again kissed the ground as I did when I finished San Diego.
FINAL TIME = 3:53:20
It was every bit as sweet as I thought it would be. To have a pretty ambitious goal, fall short - but pick yourself up to try again. Thankfully as I mentioned, the weather gods were on our side today as it remained cloudy and overcast throughout.
Mile Splits (Garmin read 23.59 mi):
Mile 1 - 9:09
Mile 2 - 8:42
Mile 3 - 8:57
Mile 4 - 8:27
Mile 5 - 8:27
Mile 6 - 9:13
Mile 7 - 8:24
Mile 8 - 8:19
Mile 9 - 8:21
Mile 10 - 8:21
Mile 11 - 8:18
Mile 12 - 8:35
Mile 13 - 8:31
Mile 14 - 8:02
Mile 15 - 8:31
Mile 16 - 8:44
Mile 17 - 9:36
Mile 18 - 7:53
Mile 19 - 8:49
Mile 20 - 8:41
Mile 21 - 8:51
Mile 22 - 8:11
Mile 23 - 10:11
Mile 24 - 9:52
Mile 25 - 9:28
Mile 26 - 9:09
Mile .59 - 5:25
I'm going to enjoy this for a couple of days before figuring out my next goal/race. But I did most certainly enjoy this one. Thanks to all of those cheering me on and wishing me well today...can't tell you how much it meant to me!
And finally, a special mention and kudos goes out to my cousin and his girlfriend for finishing their ever 1st marathon, my TRC buddy Kenna for her always consistent finish (1:50 in the half) and to my gals from Runner's World for setting new PR's (Lori in 3:28 for the full and Silly Lillie a 1:29 in the half).
Great job out there guys!!