Wow... what a crazy experience!
I'm going to chronicle my race here because this was such an amazing experience for me. Thanks to everyone who was involved!
Okay, so I've always wanted to run a marathon. I always knew that eventually I would, and frankly I have been surprised that it's taken me this long. I was a distance runner in high school and college, and I ran countless miles for a good 10 years. Our long runs would be 10-16 miles, and those were always some of my most favorite days. After my college running days ended, I was pretty burnt out, so I took a break... about a 10 year break! I would run on occasion or pick up and run a 5K or 10K. I even trained for and ran a couple of half marathons - one in 1999 and one in 2002. I've always enjoyed the competition... I don't really like to run for the "joy" of it - I run to race and to be competitive. It's just who I am.
When I decided to race Ironman Arizona, I thought that this would be a good time to race a marathon. Why not - I'm doing all this training, and why should my first marathon be at the end of 7 grueling hours of swimming and biking? I asked Nick, my coach, if I could run the San Francisco Marathon in the middle of my training and he said okay. Funny how I base so many decisions on his opinion. But I've learned (several times over) that he's the expert and he's right. My goal was to qualify to run Boston Marathon in 2011. I would need to race and qualify before late 2010 to make it for 2011. Boston qualifying time for my age is 3:40. In 2 months when I turn 35, I would have another 5 minute break! Can I make it?!
Why San Francisco? First (and foremost!), one of my best girlfriends lives there and it's a reason to visit. Second, the timing was just right (end of July). Third, I LOVE San Francisco. I ran the Half Marathon in 2002 and I loved running through the City.
We added the marathon into my Ironman training schedule, and honestly, we didn't make many adjustments except that my long runs were 2-6 miles longer than they would have been otherwise for about a month. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I was really making enough of an adjustment to matter, but, AGAIN... Nick knows what he's doing! I ran one 18 miler, and a couple 16 milers. On my last long run, I got a stomach bug and could only do 13. I was a bit nervous.
My taper the week of the race included swimming, short runs and bikes. And, the weekend before, I rode 80 and ran for 2 hours. Didn't feel like much of a taper, to be honest. I do heartrate training with my coach, and his race strategy for me was this: run relaxed in my normal training HR range for the first 6 miles; push up to my threshold rate for miles 6-20; and push myself as hard as possible for the last 6.2. Hmmm... this scared me. I haven't run 4 hours in threshold before. Can I do it?
We flew into town on Saturday, roamed around the runners expo, I had a BEER at lunch (tee heee) and a sandwich, we made pasta for dinner, lounged, and went to bed around 9:30.
Race time was 5:42am, a good 45 minutes away from Kelli's house. We got up at 4am. I felt ready to go! It was dark! We got to the race site 30 minutes early, it was cold, and I was a combination of nervous and excited. Got some good photos.
The course is known as one of the most hilly around. The Wall Street Journal called it "The Race Even Marathoners Fear" in an article on July 13. Oh great. I was reading about the race from regular marathoners the night before. Quotes from runners who have raced Boston who say the course is 10-15 minutes slower than most courses. Oh great. And people talking about how "no one races this course to qualify for Boston." Oh great. And I have to finish in 3:40. Oh great.
I was nervous going to bed, and nervous standing on the line.
Starting horn blows.... About 40 steps past the starting line, I got emotional. I was actually doing this. I have thought about it, I've intended to do it, and this is real. Wow. Get a grip! The first 5 miles to the Golden Gate Bridge were awesome. I was faster than I expected, but I stayed in my lower training range and just got comfortable. Then we turned onto the Bridge and I got reeeeaally excited. What a rush! And I was passing people. The 5 miles that included running over and back across the Bridge were glorious. I had a ridiculous time!
The Bridge turnaround was during mile 7, and I used that turnaround as the time to push up to threshold HR. I was flying! And having a blast! I was nervous that I was pushing too hard, but I was determined to follow Nick's instructions.
Nutrition: I've had stomach problems when running in the past. Not regularly, but often. And, I'm notorious for not hydrating or eating on my runs. That doesn't work in a marathon, or in Ironman, for that matter. I didn't stop at the first water station (mile 4??), but I did drink water and grab a GU at the second station (at the Bridge turnaround). Had a small sip of GU and put the GU in my pocket for later.
I saw my wonderful supportive husband Tyson and my awesome friend Kelli at mile 10, after the Bridge. I was running under 8 minute miles on average (Tyson was getting my splits), and his eyes were big with excitement. They were suuuch great cheerleaders!
Run, run... on to Golden Gate Park. There were some long, slow uphills, and some seriously steep downhills. I kept my HR around threshold - sometimes a couple beats higher and sometimes a couple beats lower. I looked at my watch regularly to monitor HR. I refused to look at pace and at time... those things are irrelevant, according to my plan, and based on this stage of the race! I felt great at mile 10. I felt great at the half marker too, but I still had another 13!
At half, I caught up to a guy who asked what the Wave 3 split was... in talking to him, he let me know that he was 49 and this was his 159th marathon. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Wow. And, he just finished the LA Marathon in 3:10 a few weeks before. I was nervous that I was running with him because his pace was faster than mine should be. We ran together for a few miles.
Mile 18 I felt great - saw Tyson and Kelli again. Tyson ran with me for a good quarter mile, and he was so encouraging and happy. I was still nervous that I was going too fast. 18 miles is the farthest I had run before... could I keep it up? This was the first time I looked at my watch for time. I did the quick math... I could practically stroll from here and I was going to make my Boston time. WOW. I got emotional... I teared up and my throat seized. I couldn't breathe! I was horrified! Get it together, Teri! No more emotion!!!
Mile 22 I saw Tyson and Kelli again and I needed to use the bathroom... I stopped at the Mile 22 rest stop, used the bathroom (that was one tough squat!!), and drank some water. Got right back at it, and it hurt a bit more after the stop. I was worried about that!
There were some pretty serious downhills in the last section and they HURT!
Miles 24-26 were torture. I was broken, but almost there. I knew I would break 3:30. I had another emotional breakdown, seizing of the throat, panic. What if I can't breathe and I die on the course? Geez, Teri! When I FINALLY hit mile 26 and I had .2 left, I tried to pick it up. When I saw the finish line, I passed about 5 people. Again, emotion, red eyes, tears, wow. 3:26:12. Unbelievable.
Tried to raise my arms, but my line crossing photos prove that I was tired. I crossed, saw Tyson and Kelli, got a quick photo, and my legs immediately broke within 3 minutes. I could barely move. The beer tent that I had been dreaming of was the last thing I wanted. Take me home to a shower.
I was excited. Delighted. Take me home.
The next day we looked at results and found out I had placed 27th out of 2001 women. Wow... I had no idea. I have always viewed 8 minute miles as "slow," but I'm changing that idea.
Thanks to everyone for the Congrats. Thanks to Nick for knowing things I don't know. Thanks to Tyson for always being there and being truly on my side. Kelli - having you there was awesome.
Now, on to Ironman...