Wednesday, June 3, 2009

San Diego Marathon

They say it's all about finishing...

and that was going to be good enough for me.

A week before I was set to leave for San Diego, my kids got a terrible case of the flu. I did everything possible to avoid it, but the inevitable happened and days before the race I was still trying to recover from it. I took some Compazine on the drive to California hoping it would relieve some of my nausea. It helped.

As we drove into downtown San Diego, my excitement grew and I soon felt great. No nausea. No headaches. We arrived just in time to check in at the marathon expo. On every corner, there were San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon flags. People were flooding in and out of the convention center with marathon goodie bags in tow. I've come to realize that runners come in every shape and size. Some runners are easy to spot. They just look the part: their lean physique, their stance. They scream runner. Then, there are the people that you would never guess could run. They don't have that runner look. I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

After collecting as much free stuff as we could at the expo, Lance and I met up with my dad and sister for some carb-loading in the Gaslamp Quarter. Mushroom ravioli and a coke and I was set. We even had time for some Urban Outfitter shopping. And, the best part...I was not nervous at all.

4:15 wake-up call and an hour later, I was on my way to the start line. I looked for corral #8. #8 was for those who had a 4 hour goal time. Up until a couple of weeks ago, that was my goal. However, after struggling through leg injuries and fighting the flu, I had decided that my new goal was to simply finish. I joined 16,000 other runners at Balboa Park for bagels, bananas, bathroom breaks, and some serious adrenaline. Being surrounded by so many hyped up runners was exhilarating. There were elite runners from around the world and 1st-timers like myself, all of us equally excited.I joined my group and waited...

After the start, it took a whole four minutes for me to cross the start line. The beginning was slow, dodging and weaving, trying to find a niche to stay put in for awhile. After a couple of minutes, we came to the first band. There were supporters lined up along both sides of the streets screaming and cheering. A group of men dressed as cheerleaders with boobs and wigs were kicking and jumping. I already knew this would be fun.

At mile marker one, I ignored my time. At mile two, I had to look. I calculated my pace and realized I was slower than my normal 9 minute pace. It wasn't supposed to matter, but it did. A goal of finishing wasn't going to be enough. I kicked up the pace to make up some time. By mile 6, I was right on target for a 4 hour goal and I fell into a groove. So much for just finishing.

Occasionally, other runners would comment on my shirt. You look like your mom! What a great cause! Melissa Etheridge's I Run for Life would play on my ipod. There were a couple of times that it just got too emotional for me. I would get choked up and couldn't breathe. I actually had to stop thinking about why I was running to get through it.
At every mile I calculated my pace and stayed consistent. But, at the half-way point, the math got too hard. Luckily, I had caught up to a pacer (a track club runner carrying a 4:00 sign). Perfect. I would stay with him for the rest of the race. I had pain along the way. It started in my right knee...expected. Then, my left shin...also, expected. When my ankle started to hurt, I got nervous. I knew I could run through most of the pain, but that ankle pain had stopped me in my tracks on a couple of long runs.

Mile 14

Lance, my dad, and my sister were waiting for me at mile 14. They had bananas, water, and energy bars . I snatched just a little and ran off explaining, "I can't lose my pacer!" I felt great! I was surprised at how much energy I still had and I thought... I love this!

I kept strong until mile 17. All of a sudden I just felt tired. Nothing in particular hurt. My lungs were strong. My body was just plain tired. I told myself to count off every two miles now and forget about how many miles were left. At about mile 18, we started climbing a hill and as weird as this sounds, I felt it in my teeth. It was as if all of my blood rushed there and I clenched over and over trying to make it go away. As soon as I came to the top of the hill, it disappeared. The next few miles were hard. Lance came riding up behind me around mile 22. He asked if I needed anything and I just snapped, "I just need this to be over." (Sorry, Babe. I guess I'm grouchy at 22 miles.)

Mile 22

As soon as I saw the mile 24 marker, I knew I would be fine. I still had the pacer in my sights, although he had put some distance between us. I was ok with that. As long as I was close to my goal time, I would be happy. At mile 26, we rounded our way into the military base. All I could see was the finish line. I tried to look around for somebody I knew, but couldn't make out anyone in the sea of faces lining the path. I crossed the finish line. Ahh, made it. Someone immediately directed me out of the way. The medics were helping two people off on stretchers and another vomiting. Someone put a medal around my neck and handed me an ice-cold rag. I draped the rag on my face and stopped walking. Mistake. I tried to take another stop and my legs wouldn't move. It's weird how you can run for 4 hours and the moment you stop, your body decides it's done working. I worried how I was going to find everyone if I couldn't move. Then, someone came over with two small bags of ice. I asked them to wrap them to my calves. Suddenly, I could move again. Someone handed me a Nestle Quik chocolate milk and without really thinking, I just downed it (I know this sounds strange, but it was soooo good)! I found my sister, wrapped myself in a mylar blanket, and sat down to ice my feet while we waited for Lance and my dad. As tired as I was, I still felt the adrenaline running through my veins.

I later learned I'd made it in 4:02. I am really happy with that time.

This was easily one of the most exciting and rewarding things I have ever done. I felt the support of all of you and most of all, my mom. for doing it again.

I can't wait!!

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.


Keri said...

Wooohooo!! You did it! You look amazing, even after 26 miles of running!

heathermommy said...

I have been thinking about you so much. I am so glad it went well. I am so proud of you!!!

nicole said...

I am glad all went well. Just reading this post made me tired! Twenty six miles is a long distance and you did it!

Anonymous said...

Congrats Sara! That post made me cry. I have only ran one marathon but, I remember the overwhelming feeling of finishing 26.2! I hope to do half as well as you next time around. You are awesome.

Brooke said...

Still having trouble with blogging! haha
I am anonymous.

Abby Runyan said...

Loved every secong of hearing the whole story. How a amazing. & now I'm craving Chocolate milk!

Brianne Skidmore said...

Another one?!
Your amazing sis!

Anonymous said... she has a different view!! Both greater than I could ever do! Congratulations to you both! Job well done!

Larissa said...

Sara, I have been following your blog ever since you commented on mine a while ago. I think you are just so adorable and inspiring. Congrats on the marathon! That's so amazing. And to fight through the emotions is truly a feat. Great job!!!

Lindsey Wood-Felstead said...

I've been waiting to hear about your marathon all weekend! You are awesome! I'm so proud of you and I know your Mom is too! What a great feeling to accomplish something so great! Can't wait to hear what's next!

kayts said...

Sara, that is absolutely amazing. What an amazing accomplishment. I'm sure it was all worth it. I think you are awesome.

Keli said...

Awesome job! You are so cool!