Sherry and I got up at 4am to catch a flight to San Diego (thank you to my sweet gym buddy and good friend, Emily, for seeing me off!). We did what all normal people do that early in the morning...
SportHooks who was awesome when I suggested she add different states (instead of just Texas) to her "Danglers" line... and she did... so I grabbed me a California 26.2.
Then I stopped by MissionAthletecare to finally meet Todd who I have been communicating with via e-mail for a long time. Fun to finally meet him. (Now you're famous Todd... welcome to the blog world!!!)
Not long after, we headed out, checked into the hotel, then went back out for an absolutely amazing dinner at Hotel del Coronado... Y-U-M!!!
Saturday, my goal was to rest all day, but I had a couple of important things to do!!! First, I had to pick up bloggy buddy, Jen from the airport. So amazing to finally meet her after months and months of e-mail correspondence and blog-reading. Then we had to hit the expo one more time to get Jen's bib.
The rest of the day was all about relaxation until it was carb-loading time.
Oh, and I can't fail to mention what my awesome friend Mel sent in the mail for me to wear on race day:
I'm not even to the race yet, and I may be at my photo limit... so here we go... Sunday. EEK!!! Race day. Traffic was terrible. We literally got to the starting area about 15 minutes before the start but needed to use the potties. By time we got through the potty line, they were already at coral 18 or so.
Jen, Me, Sherry, and Jion
Jen and I would be running the full, and as you know, the awesome Sherry switched to the half since keeping that baby in her tummy safe and sound is way more important than a marathon. Duh! Her sweet friend, Jion, who had flown in to cheer her on ended up running with her (note here that Jion was completely untrained and still managed to run the entire half marathon at 5:1 run/walk intervals... unbelievable!!!).
So we finish the potty and it's GO time. I gave Jen a huge hug as she headed to her coral, and then headed up to mine which was just a few minutes from starting. I never found the pace group that I had hoped for, so I was totally on my own. 26.2 miles of me. No music. No running buddies. Just me. Could I keep my head in the game???
(For the record, there won't be a lot of pictures here, because I didn't want to waste an ounce of energy on anything except the race... I never once took out my camera... even forgot at the end.)
I started out feeling great. In fact, I had to keep pulling myself back to slow down. 10:15, Lesley, 10:15. Slow down. Stay on. And I did. I stayed right on. Aiming to come in between 10:15 and 10:20. I was feeling good, but knew I had a long day ahead of me. Around mile 3, a guy pulled up next to me and started talking. You know how I love to talk while running, so I thought perhaps this was my ticket to sanity... until he asked his first question...
Random guy: Are you a runner?
Me (thinking, what in the world do you think we're in the middle of here, dude???): Um, yes, are you?
Random guy: No, I play basketball. Did you train for this?
Me (already knowing *this* pacing relationship wouldn't work out): Um, yes, quite a bit actually. Did you?
Random guy: No, I just play basketball. I drove from New Mexico, and I'll drive home tonight.
I cannot explain to you the thoughts racing through my head at this point, but suffice it to say that within 2 miles, he was bidding me farewell. He asked for parting advice, and all I could muster was "Walk..." Back to being alone...
Mile 6-10 was the demon on the elevation map that I had been trying to ignore. It was a steady uphill for 4 miles. To be honest, the uphill didn't bother me, despite my being used to fast and flat Texas, because I had been told that this was the only major uphill... and it was still early and I still felt great. What bothered me a lot (and is still bothering my aching IT Bands) is that the road was heavily slanted for that entire time... and I do mean heavily. I had trouble running a straight line because I would fall down the slope and just couldn't find a flat area to run. But I conquered it anyhow, and was still right on pace.
Right when the downhill started at 11, which was my fastest mile clocking in at 9:55 because it was harder to slow down than to just go with it since it was a bit steep, I saw a petite brunette that I was certain was Courtney. I yelled her name, figuring she wouldn't respond if it wasn't her... but it was!!! I know that she is a solo runner that likes to get lost in thought and music, so I asked if I could just hang for half mile or so to help perk my energy up, and she obliged. And of course my jabbering distracted her since we were on the steep downhill and one of those protruding reflectors in the center of the road tripped her. I felt awful! So sorry Courtney, but it was totally awesome meeting you on the course. We separated at the next medical stop because she ran off to get a tylenol. So off I went.
I stayed in the zone, my mental state stayed positive, and I stayed right on pace. Half split was 2:13:31. (OK, yes, that was my second fastest half ever... perhaps my goal was a little ambitious... but it was a little late now.) I stayed right on pace until mile 16. At mile 16 came something a little unexpected... another hill. It wasn't uber-steep, but it was along a highway and all I could see was thousands of people up ahead, and thousands of people coming back the other direction. I had no idea how far it was or where it turned around, and this was by far, the toughest mental section of the course. It felt like forever before the turnaround, and I had already seen my pace slow... not anything shocking, but definitely no longer on pace. Then I did something really surprising for me... I accepted it. OK, so I slowed down... big deal. Let's work with what I've got, and I plodded along. (Usually this is where I start to feel defeated and totally tank it, but I didn't... I stayed encouraged, accepted what pace I had, and just kept going.). Around mile 18, I took my first walk break. I actually stopped to refill my water bottle, and then allowed myself to walk for 2 minutes to refocus.
I should mention, as a sidenote, that my nutrition was right on. I ate exactly as planned, took my GU at 45 minute intervals with water from water stops, and drank my GU electrolyte drink in between. I should've brought one more GU tablet for electrolytes, but I felt like my nutrition was exactly as my body needed.
I continued to plod along, and my pace had definitely slowed. Then we hit the island... which was so beautiful in my mind, but I absolutely hated it when we were there. I knew we were in the homestretch, but wandering around huge sand dunes in a lagoon with virtually no spectators and nothing to see at the very end of a long day was really tough for me. I'm a social runner... I thrive on conversation and spectator energy... this was isolating and boring. My pace slowed even more. Though I was bored, I never once felt "negative". I continued knowing I could do this, taking short breaks where needed, and plodding along at whatever pace my body allowed. Miles 24 and 25 were the slowest, but I am always magically perked up at the thought of a final mile.
We exited the island, and it was there... mile 25 marker. I've got this. I ran... I ran, I didn't walk that last 1.2. I passed people. I counted down every hundredth of a mile wanting it to end, but knowing this was a great day. I hit mile 26 and I was sucking wind, but I was there... I finally could see the finish line and about 10 dudes between me and the finish line. Sorry dudes... this chick likes to sprint finishes. I don't care how much pain I am in or how tired I am, I can always eek something out on that final stretch, and I let loose. Those poor guys all got chicked in the last tenth of a mile. Sorry, but that's how I roll at the end. I could hardly hold in the emotion, and I could hardly get in the air to breathe! D-O-N-E. Time 4:47:54. Not my "A" goal (4:30), not even my "B" goal (4:45, although if you ignore the three times I stopped to refill my water bottle, my moving time actually was 4:45), but for some reason, I am still elated with how I did and with my time. I didn't beat myself up about it at all. That is still a rocking 25 minute PR. And most importantly, I felt like a marathoner... something I struggled with last time. Last time, I honestly questioned if I was meant for the distance... this time, I didn't. That distance is mine, and I can see room for improvement, and I know I can.
No one was at the finish line when I got there. There wasn't any shade and not enough food, and Sherry had to leave. (Since she was pregnant, I had worried about her waiting for me, so I had told her if there wasn't shade and sufficient food, to please take care of herself FIRST. That baby is way way way more important.) But despite that, the second I sat down and pulled out my phone, I had 41 messages... all relating to the marathon. A text from Sherry, and a facebook post from TMB congratulating me were among the first... but there were a slew of friends pouring in support that made me feel awesome at the finish. You were all there in thought, and that meant A LOT to me.
I plopped on the grass to wait for Jen to cross the finish line. I passed the time texting Jason about my results and updating him on Jen's location. Jen was texting when she could. She was having severe tummy issues. There was no way I wasn't going to see her cross her first marathon finish line though. When she texted at 24 miles, I began calculating when she would cross. I didn't want to get up too early since my legs couldn't handle much more standing... and fortunately I timed it perfectly. A few minutes after I stumbled to the finish line... I had the awesome pleasure of getting to see this:
By the way, if you ever want to be inspired... try standing at the finish line of a marathon past the 6 hour mark. I could hardly hold back my emotions as each of these people crossed. 6+ hours on their feet, pushing, continuing, fighting, and ultimately winning by crossing that line. I have never witnessed such elation from people crossing a finish than those I saw in the minutes waiting for Jen. THESE are the people that are inspiring to me, way more than the elites.
What a day! Really an altogether fantastic experience. I loved running in a new city. I loved facing new challenges. And I was proud of myself! And I was beyond honored to share this whole experience with Jen and Sherry. (Go read their race recaps - Sherry's and Jen's.)