Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Carlsbad Marathon, #18

Marathon race shirt taken with crappy phone camera
Marathon medal.  I actually really like it, shiny!  Yeah, same crappy phone camera
Back of shirt.  And I still don't have a new phone
Well, I survived!  That's a good thing, I think!

It's interesting to me how each of us react to a race and how one can like it and yet another not so much. When I was in California last summer climbing Mt. Whitney, I spent a couple days with my sweet blogger friend, Meg, and she hyped the Carlsbad Marathon, stating it was a great course and fairly easy except for a big hill at mile 9. I was looking for a winter race to make my marathon come-back and I love California and the beach so sure, why not!  I talked Tara and Marcia into running the half marathon and we began making plans for a fun-filled girls' weekend.

I, however, I actually didn't care for the course much.  And flat?  HA!  At least in the view of my current sucky fitness level, I don't think there was one flat spot on that entire course and it was anything but easy.  But again, that's most likely coming from my lack of adequate training.  Though I wasn't the only one who thought this.

Meg's husband drove us around the course the day before the race when we hit the expo.  Usually, I love to know what the course looks like and what to expect, this is a big mental boost for me, but all I could think of was dread as we wandered though the miles.  It didn't help I was sitting in the backseat of his truck and sometimes get a little motion sickness in the spot.  But all I could think of was how miserable the course appeared.  

I won't dive into the events of the whole weekend, race reports can get rather length just to cover the details of the actual race, but suffice it to say, even on a not so stellar race course (in my view :)), I had a fantastic weekend.  So without further ado, here are some of the race details....

Meg was feeling pretty sick leading up to the race but she gave it a the old girl scout try and her and I stood at the start line in total pitch darkness (6am start) as I wondered what the heck I was really going to tackle.  Meg's husband is awesome.  AWESOME!  He got up early with us and drove us to the start, stood there with us in the freezing cold and thus I was able to wear my sweats until the last minute and handed him my coat just before the gun went off.  He's seriously a great guy, despite having a truck which made me sick. :)

The marathon is a relatively small race - something I didn't fully realize going into it because when I read on the website it had 12,000 runners, I wasn't aware that 10,500 of them were halfers (and they started an hour and a half later).  So as I stood there waiting for the gun to go off, I was in awe that I wasn't smushed to death by a million runners.  I had ample room to stretch, had I had the foresight to do so, which I didn't.  I'm not a huge fan of smaller marathons, mostly because it can certainly get lonely out there in the second half.  Which this race did...and didn't.  You'll understand more in a bit.

National Anthem, hugs to Meg, and off we go.  6am start makes for some very dark first miles and I don't think it was until around mile 4 when it got light enough to see anything.  We've hit about 4 serious hills by this point and I was feeling every single one of them.  ugh.  As the sun came up, though, the clouds turned a magnificent orange and the waves crashing along side the route made this my most favorite section of the whole 26.2 miles. I was only feeling so-so, and could feel it.

At mile 6, the course turns inland and away from the ocean, and I saw Meg's husband standing on the bridge, right where he said he'd be.  It was starting to warm up so I ran off to the side and handed him my short sleeved shirt and we chatted for a bit.  He told me the course was now an out and back and I'd return back to this point at mile 13.  I took off and at this point turned on my iPod to distract my so-so body from the hardest hills of the course to come at mile 8.5.

 Something happened around mile 7 and I suddenly felt fantastic.  HUH?  I have no idea why, but I rolled with it and I started attacking that beast of a hill and felt fairly strong.  As I was going up, I heard Meg yell my name and saw her flying down the hill (um, yeah, she was about 2 miles ahead of me).  I got to the top of the hill and it goes back down before you turn around and head back up it again.  Again, I felt really good and I just kept going with the flow.  I refused to wear my Garmin but I was quasi keeping track of my mile splits with my reliable Nike watch and had been running in the mid-9's up to the big hill - which honestly, was a bit more ambitious than I had planned.  I picked up the pace to the low 9's at the top of the hill and keep that pretty consistent and wondered when I was going to falter.  Remember, my longest long run in the past 3 months was about 12 miles.  Yeah, fatigue was going to hit eventually.

And it did, about mile 14.

At mile 13, I got to the place where Meg's husband was earlier and he was not there.  This told me he either was on his way to see Meg further along the course, or Meg had dropped out due to her illness (unfortunately, it was the former).  I was kinda of bummed to not see him, but onward I pressed.  The part of the course which I thought was the worst was from mile 13 - 15 where you do this little finger out and back through an industrial park.  Bleh.  Half way through this section, I just felt tired.  And I knew the rest of the race was going to start becoming a mental game.

At mile 15ish, the full marathon merges with the half marathon and where I was previously out there running alone-ish for the most part, I suddenly found myself in a mad cluster of thousands. I positioned myself on the far left hand side since my pace seemed to be a bit ahead of whatever waves of halfers I merged into.

And here's where the suckiest part of the whole race occurred (well, one of them anyway).  When the halfers turned around to go back about mile 6.5 (they had one long out and back course along the entire ocean front), I was on the far left side and I never saw a sign telling the full marathoners to go straight so I turned with the masses...but as I did so, something just didn't feel right because the mile markers just weren't adding up in my head.  Now, I'm not one to have good math skills during a marathon, especially one I'm very ill-prepared for, but something wasn't sitting right about turning here but I had no reason not to believe I shouldn't and onward I went.  I ran about a half mile when I saw a group of people running backwards in the thick crowd and I thought to myself I'd better join them because they all had white bibs on (white bib = full marathon, blue bibs = half marathoners).  I asked the pack going against the mob of people if the marathoners were suppose to go straight at the turn and they said someone further up told them to turn around and go back...so I joined them and sure enough, when I got to the turn around point, there was an itty-bitty orange sign with an arrow for the full to go straight.  Having been on the inside of the turn around, this was impossible for me to see.  For the life of me, I can't believe they didn't have a big overhang sign and someone with a blow horn shouting this out.  Major bummer!  I think I ran about an extra mile here, maybe a tiny bit less. 

Now it's a 2 mile gradual downhill with a dip up before we turn around at mile 19.  This means, of course, a 2 mile gradual uphill.  This gradual 2-mile incline was the absolutely worse section of the race for me, despite it being a gorgeous view along the coast.  I was tired, and my lack of endurance training was shining bright.  I wasn't even enjoying the beauty of the ocean.  But I focused at the task at hand and finally got to the top of the hill at mile 21 with my pace resorting to a snail's somewhere in the 11's.  Of course, there were more and more hills, just for good measure, and by mile 23 I just decided it wasn't worth the pain anymore to keep shuffling through some ridiculously slow miles, so I decided to walk some.  This helped a lot as I had a bit more strength and resorted to the walk/run until mile 25 where I was able to hang on and run it in...slowly.

With about a half mile to go, I started getting extremely emotional.  All those painful foot years prior started to flood my head.  Boston 2010 where I had to hobble for 24 miles in sheer heel agony.  And here I was, running a whole marathon with an entire new foot strike, and had absolutely NO pain.  I couldn't believe it, and I was starting to tear up (and thus, having problems breathing - ha).  I saw my dear friend, Mary (The Running Green Girl), with about a quarter mile to go and she ran with me to just before I turned off to shoot through the finish line.  When I saw her, I entirely lost it and the tears were flowing.  Yeah, I'm pretty sappy like that, such is life huh?  Just before I crossed the finish line, I saw Meg and her husband and she jumped out and gave me a huge hug and told me how proud she was.  Oh man, if I wasn't a mess before that happened, you should have seen me then!!! 

I crossed the finish line in one of my slowest marathons ever.... with the biggest smile on my face ever!!  

Post race smiles!  Meg and her hubby hugging in the background - love that!! :)

The post-race food was lame, at best, and I grabbed my small bag of food but really all I wanted was to get my stuff from gear check, which was one big cluster f*&# of people.  Omg, what a complete utter fail on any type of organization here.  I apologize to all those in line behind me who I cut in front of!!!  I'm sorry but I was so cold and that damn line was NOT moving.and my legs were just aching to stand and not move and I had to get my stuff NOW! (one guy in front of me said he waited an hour and 5 minutes in the gear check line.  WTH???)  Meg and her husband found me eventually and soon, the big group of bloggers united to became one happy group of race finishers! (I had been anxious to hear how my swim and workout buddy Tara did, along with the others).

Meg, Irene, Me, Tara, Marcia (my medal is blue and the half marathoners is orange. Mine is also bigger, which might almost make up for the fact I had to suffer an extra mile (does that make me an ultra marathoner now??:)) due to lack of proper signage!!  And for that crappy 2-mile hill at mile 19-21!.  

With Mary, The Running Green Girl :)
Eventually, we made our way back to Meg's house where warm pizza and a hot shower were waiting (thanks, Meg and BS!).  I took a picture of these gorgeous flowers near Meg's house, and Mary managed to snap a lovely pic of my butt doing so....

What is this pink flower?  Is looks like upside-down pink little trumpets.  LOVE all the gorgeous flowers in California!

Tara and I had to catch a plane back home, but first post-race celebratory 7-11 Slurpees and a walk on the beach ended the day......

Myself, Tara, Marcia

I thought about so many things out there in the long time it took me to cross that finish line.  I thought about my daughter, who called me the night before with more sadness in her life....I thought surely I can suffer a few physically painful miles for all the emotional pain she was currently suffering.  I thought of Beth's cousin, who went out for a run and never came home and how she'd never get to run again.  I thought about losing my mom when I was 25 and how she never got to see this part of me.  I thought about how sometimes painfully reserved me has been so lucky to have such special friendships formed through this blog....

I thought about how far I've come in the past year.

I am one HAPPY marathon girl again!!  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be here a year ago.  I'm not sure what strength my almost 49-year old body has left for these marathons, but I do know I love them - absolutely love them - and I'm excited to find out if I can get the old bod back into the condition it needs to to run them stronger.  It's time to put the energy and effort back into the moment and find out. I eagerly await...


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Time to Roll

Carlsbad Marathon and Half logo

Wow, I absolutely cannot believe 21 weeks has passed since I started running and training for marathon #18.  A few passing thoughts before I catch a flight to California in an hour (like if I were packed an hour before I leave would be nice - ha!).

It's been once crazy, busy week at the runwithjill household, so I haven't had time to find the normal pre-race jitters I usually get before a marathon.  The boys were off school Monday and Tuesday so we crammed in as much fun stuff as we could.  I've been tweaking my resume so I can be a coach for the Girls on the Run program, and I had my first meeting for that last night.  Today I rode my bike for a few hours in our gorgeous 63 degree sunshiny weather.  To top off the frenzy of activity, my laptop decided to cop an attitude and stop working so it's been at the computer hospital since last week; let me tell you sharing a communal desktop computer with two teenage boys does not allow me much blog reading time. (I do apologize, I so miss the connections!)

Most likely, though, the lack of pre-race nerves is the fact that I'm just not prepared to run 26.2 miles in Carlsbad and therefore have absolutely no time expectations.  It's just the way it is this time around, hopefully one day there'll be other races, hopefully more marathons, where I will be stronger and compete.  Carlsbad will not be one of those races.

I feel at peace, in a way.

I'm happy not to be biting off everyone's head who walks the wrong way in my path.  I had no qualms to ride my bike for hours 2 days before my marathon - if I were expecting to toe the line on Sunday, this bike ride would be unheard of for me.  I ran a few miles at the state park by my house (I often wonder how many miles I've run there....it has to be several thousand!) on Tuesday, right after we had a fresh snowfall.  There was absolutely not another soul in sight for my few miles run.

It was so peaceful.  A couple miles into the run, I saw this guy perched up in a tree above me...

I'm actually shocked I saw him, usually I'm plodding along listening to my music and holding on for dear life at a pace with his probably a bit too ambitious for my abilities at this time.  But this run was different, this run had me looking around, being very external with my elements and enjoying every step I was taking.  I stood directly underneath the tree where the eagle sat and I just watched him for a few minutes, he couldn't have been more than 15' from me.

He sat there proud and tall (probably wondering how the heck he could eat me whole for lunch!) and I was just in awe.  I continued on my run, feeling slightly lighter in my step and had one of the best runs I had in probably several months.

My goals in Carlsbad are simple:  I want to enjoy the experience.  I want to be thankful and grateful I get to run a marathon just a few short months after the heel from hell fiasco.  I want to remember my eagle friend and feel light on my feet...and in my heart.  I want to take in the gorgeous ocean views and think of all the wonderful things I have in my life.  I will not worry about a finish line time, heck I'm not even going to wear a watch.  I get to spend a couple days with some of my best girlfriends out there (Meg, Tara, Marcia, Irene.  Marcia's plane is currently stuck in the snowy Midwest, I hope she makes it), I can't wait to share many laughs as we suffer through the miles together, I'm sure we'll have some great stories to share after.

Yes, it will be hard and yes it will hurt - a lot.  But this will be a different hurt than if I were racing, not that racing doesn't hurt, it just hurts differently is all.

And sometimes, that's good enough.

Time to roll....Carlsbad, here I come.

Run Strong and with joy, my friends!

Isaiah 40:31
“But those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”