One of the main reasons I write a blog is to journalize things that I want to remember. This week’s marathon, my first one, was definitely a significant event in my life so indulge me while I break up this recap of the experience into multiple posts to record every detail that I can remember.
Race Day - "Breathe Deeply, Appreciate the Moment"
I woke up just a few minutes shy of my alarm going off. My natural body clock is always spot on - sometimes a good thing, sometimes bad. I got out of bed, looked in the mirror, took a deep breath and told my body, "I apologize in advance for what I'm about to put you through."
I took a shower to warm-up the muscles and then had to make my final decision on what I was going to wear. After seeing how warm it was on Saturday, I was definitely going with my Lululemon Run Groove shorts. As for a top, I was still undecided. I tend to chafe on the underside of my right arm (even if I use Body Glide) which is why I usually wear long-sleeves for long runs. But I knew it was going to be too hot for that. I have t-shirts from other races that I could have used but as I told Yvette, "They're just not cute." I use those for training runs, not for races. I decided to take a chance and wear my Lululemon running tank that had "Breathe Deeply, Appreciate the Moment" printed on the front of it. This was to be my mantra throughout the race. To be sure I didn't chafe I covered my body in Body Glide and Vaseline. I also wore my Lululemon running bonnet to block the sun and keep the sweat out of my eyes.
I sat down to have my breakfast of oatmeal with honey and raw sliced almonds. I also had a piece of a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter. I didn't really have an appetite (too nervous) but forced myself to eat as much as I could. I also started sipping water.
Then I packed up the rest of the stuff that I'd need. I brought a cooler of water, Gatorade, fruit, bagels and peanut butter. After they ran out of these things at the last half-marathon I ran, I didn't want to take a chance of having nothing. I also packed my backup with an extra set of clothes to change into, a towel, wash cloth and a long-sleeved running shirt (just in case).
I had charged all my electronics (Garmin, iPod shuffle and iPhone) the day. I decided to run with my iPhone so Yvette and I could text each other when deciding where she was going to meet up with me. But just in case the battery died, I clipped my iPod shuffle on. I would love to just run with my iPod, but I still can't figure out how to rewind or fast forward, so I until I get that sorted out, I use them for short runs.
Lastly, I mixed my Cytomax drink and filled up the 4 bottles in my hydration belt and packed 7 chocolate GU's. My plan was to eat a GU a few minutes before the start, then have one every 4.5 miles. I also take a drink of Cytomax every 2 miles. The aid stations were going to have Heed drinks and Hammer gels. I have never tried either, so I was going to stick to what was already familiar to me.
At 5:30 am, Yvette picked me up and we were off.
Race Start With no traffic, we got there in an hour. Thankfully, I had pre-purchased a parking pass and we parked really close to the Start. People who didn't have a parking pass had to be shuttled into the park to the race area. Upon parking, we were greeted with this beautiful sunrise.
As soon as we parked I ran to the porta potties while the lines were still short. After I took care of business, I ran back to the car. It was cold and still an hour from the starting time so we stayed warm in the car until 20 minutes before the start. At that time we walked toward the race area. I made one last trip to the porta potties and then went through some dynamic stretches. The temperature was already warming up and I was glad I chose to wear a tank top.
It was announced that the full and half marathoners would be led up the hill, back to the highway, by a bag pipe player and a Tesla car.
This is unique to this race, but I didn't mind. Walking the quarter mile or so up the hill was a good warm-up for me. When we got to the Starting Line there was a ceremony consisting of a welcome speech from the race director and introductions of Olympic Gold Medalists, Jennifer Azzi and Ken Flach, who were there to support the event.
Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, from the US Olympic Marathon Team was also there and was running the half-marathon. After a singing of the national anthem, Jennifer Azzi sounded the horn and we were off.
The 1st Half There were less than a 100 marathoners so there weren't any corrals. I hung back and started toward the end of the group. It started downhill, then flattened out. In keeping with my mantra of "Breathe Deeply, Appreciate the Moment", I thought to myself, "This is the only time I'll be able to run Mile 1." On my left the sun was still rising over the water and One Republic's "The Good Life" was playing on my iPhone. I thought to myself, "This is pretty damn cool."
The first aid station was at 1 1/2 miles. My nutritionist told me that when you feel thirsty you're already dehydrated so I had planned to drink something, either my own stuff or water from the aid station, at every stop. At this one I took a cup of water.
(I should mention that this event was put on by the Sustainable Sports Foundation so it was a very green event. They used plastic cups and all the volunteers picked up all the cups and recycled them at every single stop. There was not the usual mess of trash you usually see at aid stations.)
There was a turnaround at Mile 1.5 and we headed back towards the Start Line, which mean the first hill (and there were many...MANY). As we passed the Starting Line at Mile 3, the crowd cheered us on loudly. Little did I know that that would be the largest and biggest crowd on the entire course.
For the next 3 miles we ran up and down the rolling hills through China Camp. I thought this would be really tough but it wasn't too bad at all. The scenery was beautiful and I just took it all in. At one point I passed a mile marker. On the opposite side it said, "Mile 25" and I thought to myself, "I wonder what kind of shape I'll be in when I see this sign again."
I was wearing my Garmin and noticed that the course mile markers were about a quarter mile ahead of my Garmin distance alerts.
There were volunteers along the course telling runners where to go. Its a good thing too because there were so many twists and turns that I could have easily ventured off course several times. Somewhere between Mile 5 and 6 (I think) the full and half courses split. It was around this time that Magdalena Lewy-Boulet flew past me. Damn she was fast!
Eventually the course flattened out a little in a popular biking area. I say its a biking area because it was filled with cyclists. Surprisingly they were really nice and cheered us on (I have had bad experiences with cyclists in the past).
It started to get really warm and I found myself taking sips more often than the 2-mile plan.
Now this was the first year that they held the full marathon, and only the second year of the other races, so its a young event and I don't want to trash it, but there are definite areas for improvement. The course was, how shall I put it...interesting...
We ran through the only residential area on the route. This is where I noticed that the street closure signs said the roads were partially closed (yes, only half the road was closed, we were running next to traffic) from 6 am to Noon. The race started at 7:45 am and had a 6-hour time limit, which meant we had until 1:45 pm to finish. But the roads were only closed till Noon? I definitely made a mental note of this. This area of the route was also where it would have been easiest for spectators to come out to watch and cheer. Sadly, there was none. Other than the aid stations, there was zero course support.
We ran by the Marin Civic Center, through some parking lots and then through someone's backyard. Yes, backyard. Or maybe it was an empty lot. Either way, there were homes on each side. This was also the first time the terrain changed from road to gravel. After running the Bay Breeze Half-Marathon, I was not a fan of running on gravel - at all.
We ran through more parking lots. It was really confusing. They had orange arrows on the ground to mark where to go but it was still vague. I kept looking for the volunteers who wore orange vests and waved orange flags.
The hills were tough, but I was still feeling okay. We ran next to a freeway on-ramp which was a little scary. There were less people directing us in this area but there were volunteers on bikes who rode by and told us where to go.
Miles 11-13 were mostly uphill. It was really hot and I was starting to get tired, but it was nothing I couldn't handle. I kept telling myself to "Breathe Deeply, Appreciate the Moment". Soon I got to the Las Galinas Sanitation area. It was here that there was a huge park filled with weekend soccer games. There were tons of people and cars as we ran through the parking lot. There was nothing to block us off so we had to maneuver ourselves between the cars.
The course continued uphill, then through some gates where it leveled off. The road took us around some bends, next to a pasture of cows and then the last aid station before entering the trail part of the course. I stopped to get a drink and then entered the portion of the course that I called "Land of Desolation."
Tomorrow I'll write about the second half of the race, Miles 14-26.2, aka, "where things fell apart."