San Francisco Marathon Recap

20140729-102456-37496782.jpgIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

It is a tale of two races. The first half (eh, the first 17 miles) and the second half (the last 9 miles).

I’ll stop with the literary references now. (Once an English Lit major, always an English Lit major.)

I don’t even know where to start, y’all, so let’s start with the obvious: I FINISHED. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I lost my soul out there, sobbed like I was dying, considered becoming a San Francisco street person, and contemplated calling Uber to come get me.

But I forged ahead and got it done. It wasn’t the race I wanted to have. My time was hideous. But I traversed 26.2 miles of hilly San Francisco. I am a marathoner.

And redwood trees are my enemy.

The First Half

The first half of the San Francisco Marathon was amazing. I felt strong, I was 5 minutes ahead of planned pace, which was the plan as I figured I’d fatigue and slow down later. I was running at a 10:30 pace with 5:1 intervals to warm up. I slowed a bit on the Golden Gate Bridge because WOW. That was an amazing experience and I took about 30 pics on the bridge.

Once we were done with the bridge, I picked my pace up again, still running slightly slower than my half marathon pace. I wanted to hit the 10 mile mark by 2 hours. I hit it at 1:57. I wanted to hit the 13.1 mark between 2:40 and 2:45 and I hit it at 2:46.  At mile 12 was the first half marathon (TSFM offers two half marathons)/marathon split. I got emotional.

Little did I know what laid ahead of me.

Into the Woods

We entered Golden Gate Park at mile 12. It was beautiful. And evil.

For one thing, about 95% of the pack I’d spent the first 12 miles with were half marathoners. They split to the left and about 12 of us went right. Me, the juggler, the fireman, day-glo gal (a gal after my own day-glo race wear wearing heart), and a gaggle of Asian women dressed in matching pink and black outfits (their outfits were RAD).

The juggler– this jackass was annoyingly juggling throughout the whole race. By mile 17 I wanted to punch him. But by mile 17, to be honest I was sure the redwoods were mocking me.

The fireman – this guy ran in full fireman regalia complete with hat, boots, and oxygen tank.

I should mention that Sunday, July 27th was unnaturally hot and humid for San Francisco. Let us not forget, I chose this race because of the Golden Gate Bridge and the weather.  Those giant redwoods do not provide ANY SHADE. At one point the heat coming from the sun and the heat coming off my body combined to make me feel like I was suffocating.

I was doing great up until about mile 17. God, at miles 10, 12, 14, 16 I was planning future Facebook posts about my amazing marathon. Oh how wrong I would be.

At mile 17, there were 9.2 miles to go in my first marathon. It felt like there were 9.2 miles to go for an hour. I kept moving forward and the mileage was not decreasing.

We were in the park for 8 badly marked, sparsely populated miles. At one point we passed the finish line of the First Half Marathon and were directed to make a hard right and go back into the park by a helpful Hells Angel (they manned the course and were AWESOME).  I yelled “WE’VE BEEN IN THIS DAMN PARK TOO LONG”.

Honestly, y’all if I wanted to run in a park I could have stayed home and done my regular weekend Griffith Park run. I came to San Francisco to SEE the city while I ran.

We were in the park for 8 miles. At one point 6 of us stopped and looked at each other wondering which way to go at a fork in the path as it was not well marked. A helpful Hells Angel rode up and directed us.

I lost my mind in the park. I got bored. I felt like I’d been in there for a week and I was never going to get out.

That said, I felt like once I got out of redwood hell and back into the city, I’d find my energy again.

Hating the Haight

At mile 20-ish we finally left the park. I should note here that my miles are estimates as both the Garmin and Nike+ app were .56 miles off from the end of the Golden Gate Bridge through mile 26.2. I have heard other people had the same experience with the course being half a mile longer.

I had been looking forward to running the Haight. In reality I found it MEH. There were some good downhills on that stretch of Haight though and at that point in the race I was very very thankful for that. I found my legs again and ran pretty hard for a mile and a half.

Five Miles of Deep, Dark, Profound Soul Searching

Then around mile 21 1/2 the wheels came off the bus. I had developed cramps in my feet, blisters on my left heel and overall dark malaise. Oh hello WALL, kindly fuck off.

At mile 22 I went silent on Facebook. This apparently worried the hell out of my friends. My phone blew up for the rest of the race. I had 45 text messages.

The truth is, at mile 22, I considered becoming one of San Francisco’s street people if it meant I could just sit down and stop moving forward.

At mile 22 1/2 I started to identify with Elizabeth Banks’ character in Walk of Shame. This race was never ever ever going to end.

At mile 23 I was sobbing. Deep, wracking, snotty sobs. A San Francisco policewoman manning the road closures asked me if I was going to make it. I threw my hands up in the air and sobbed “I don’t know!”

At mile 23 1/2 I met another runner, a woman from Sacramento who was also struggling mightily.  She also had a Twilight Zone -like park experience. At mile 16, she laid down in the grass and took a 10 minute nap. We propped each other up for the rest of the race. Honestly, she saved my life. I told her so.

The finish line was in sight. I broke into a sprint.

I am NEVER doing this again

I traveled to San Francisco with my friend Tim who ran the first half. He was waiting for me at the finish line. I threw myself at him, sobbing, and said “I am NEVER EVER EVER doing this again.” He said I had “crazy eyes”.

That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Honestly, the one word I have to describe it is HORRIFYING.

But I will do it again because I have to conquer that distance. I went in so afraid of the hills and thinking I had the distance and it turned out that the hills weren’t an issue for me but the distance kicked my ass mentally.

I was in shock for a good 24+ hours. I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I wanted to not accept the accomplishment because I didn’t finish in the time I wanted to. It really took me until Monday night to feel it. I AM A MARATHONER.

Physically I am stiff but not too sore at all. My left heel is BLACK and I am profoundly exhausted. As in, I am going back to bed as soon as I hit publish on this recap.

I picked one of the hardest marathons as my first. I was JOYOUS for 16+ miles. Running strong, smart, feeling good, knowing I could do it. The last 5 miles were HELL ON EARTH.

The park did me in. 8 miles was too much in there. There were no spectators, no entertainment, nothing. Just a handful of runners and those damn huge ass redwoods.

But I did it. I’ll run the next one smarter.