Sunday, July 30, 2006

Greetings from San Francisco!

I'm sitting in my sister's Oakland livingroom recuperating recovering from my first ever half marathon, and I'm very proud to announce that I finished the San Francisco (First Half) Marathon!

Race Day began a couple of hours before dawn, when Tim's alarm woke us up. Everyone knows that 4am is ass-time, but it's another thing to experience it. Bleary-eyed, I dressed in my running clothes. [Let me tell you, during my long training runs not only was I gearing up for this day, but I was also discovering which socks would be best, what type of breakfast would supply me with enough fuel for the run yet not make me feel bloated or give me cramps, which sports bra/top/underwear/bottoms comination would keep me feeling supported, comfortable, and chafe-free for the hourssss (emphasis on multiple hours) of running.] While I dressed Tim prepped our breakfast of bagels and cream. Then we loaded ourselves in the car and headed over the Bay Bridge to the Embarcadero, the start of the race.

Tangent-I have a great husband. Not only is he here supporting me, but he brought his bike and his camera and studied the race course map so that he could take pictures of me, the race, and cheer me on. :-) He'd bike ahead of me, get off, find me, take a pic, smile and wave, give me a "Go, Sweetie, go."

OK, back to the race-Why were we up before the butt crack of dawn? Because the first wave started at 5-frikkin'-30 in the morning. This wave consisted of the Elites-crazy people who intended to finish the first half marathon in a little more than an hour or the entire marathon in just over 2 hours. I, on the other hand, was in the last wave. This wave was great! It had hundreds of people (about 300-500), all ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. So, Tim dropped me off and went in search of free parking. I joined the milling throng and completed my pre-race rituals: using the bathroom, securing my timing chip to my shoe, affixing the bib to my shirt, trying to make sense of things, seeing where I "fit in" (both realistically and figuratively).

Being ass-thirty in the morning, I was bundled up in my fuzzy jacket and pair of jeans. It was chilly! I began to have doubts about my top. Maybe I should've worn the race shirt I got yesterday. These spaghetti straps are not going to keep me warm. But there was nothing I could do about it. Too late to change clothes! About 15 min before the race started I turned in my fuzzy and jeans (to be collected at the finish line, 13.1 miles away) and headed to my wave corral.

During this chaos I kept my lookout for Tim. It wasn't until I was corraled in that we found each other. He stood by me, trying to keep me warm while I anxiously waited for the race to begin. I was ready. My body had been itching for a good run these last two days, and I was cold. I longed for the heat and sweat, for the jitters to end. Looking back, one thing was missing today- the "evil" voice. The voice of derision, doubt, and incredulity. The last couple of weeks, each time I went out to run, there was this voice, saying "Who do you think you are? What are you trying to prove? You can't do this." Nothing was telling me I couldn't do this today, and that was great.

Just before we started, the announcer asked, "Raise your hand if this is your first marathon?" and was answered by everyone cheering, waving, hooting. We were full of positive energy, encouraging each other, and a little apprehensive. Speaking for myself, I've never done anything as big as this race. Big, you know, physically challenging and demanding. In front of so many people. We were the largest wave, and because we all felt we could finish the race at about the same time, I was right in the middle of it for the first 8 miles at least. That was nice. At my last race I was one of the last people to cross the line. This time I was near the end. Hooray!

Met some interesting people out there. Clusters of people cheering on their friends and the rest of us. Biker gangs volunteering at a water station and intersections. Police officers watching out for us. And, the jog across the Golden Gate Bridge. The city had closed off 3 lanes for the race (one reason for the early start and time limits). It was pretty cool, but the best view came when we got off and ran to the vista point to turn around and run back: I looked up and saw the red bridge with hundreds of people pouring off and on, cars crossing and honking at them, joining in the fun. It was awesome, knowing I was a part of all this. :-)

Tim asked me if I was having fun around mile 10. Amazingly enough, I was! My soul felt great, strong. My knees, however, were getting real tired and achy. I had run farther than I had ever run before, thanks to all the other runners and volunteers. I had a couple of nice chats here and there. One woman, with whom I had chatted before therace began, caught me walking. Smiling, she called out, "Come on! If I can do it, you can!" and I pushed myself a bit faster and farther.

The worse part was near the end. Miles 12 and 13.1 were painful. My knees ached as I ran, my toes were sore, and I began to experience nausea from the exertion. But I wanted to finish. I knew I would finish. Slowly, I got further and further behind my "pack mates" and got to know some of the slower people-runners who would be finishing with me, or continuing the race and finishing the entire marathon in 6 hours. I knew at mile 12.5 I would be done in less than 30min. They were only half-way done, and I didn't envy them one bit.

Big finish! I did it! I ran the last 1/4 mi, which is when I finally saw the blue finish arch. Across it I went. Off came the chip. On came the thermal sheet. No sign of Tim, so I collected my morning sweats and my finisher's medal. We met, I stretched, and Tim biked 4 more miles to the car. I ran 13.1 miles; he biked 24miles.

My sister's home: showered, shared a bit of the day with sis, ate, napped. Now I get to take it easy for a couple of days. No high intensity workouts, at least for this week. Then, to get ready for my triathlon in September.

But, maybe I'll do a 5k in August. Should be an easy run, right?

'Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

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