Not in a million years could I have imagined myself sprinting the last 200 meters of a marathon to get my mediocre a#$ on the leaderboard.
But let’s start from the beginning.
My goal for this marathon was simple: to finish without folding in half. Which I think I achieved. At least partially. And also to visit a beer garden for the first time in my marathoning life.
(Here I am on the right and behind me is the other 43-year-old woman who also wanted on the leaderboard. She tried to sneak up behind me. Nope. I ran the 200 yard dash in junior high. Don’t mess with a white girl who makes it on to the sprint medley relay team.)
But anyway, I did sort of fold in half at the end, but not as much as I have in the past. And quite honestly, sprinting after already having run 26 miles is a terrible way to end a marathon. No one wants to taste the Salted Watermelon GU that they took at mile 8 again. No one.
But I had something to prove. Especially to the guy at the running shoe shop who pegged me for a hobby jogger the other day. Screw him. Yes, I am a hobby jogger. But I am a hobby jogger who gets the last spot on the leaderboard. Boom.
Anyway, let’s back up.
These three beautiful ladies and I reserved a room at a hotel overlooking the marathon start and finish line, where we arrived full of nerves on Saturday afternoon. We chose to stay overnight partially because we wanted to get away from our perfect husbands and adorable children for a day or two, and partially because we didn’t want to risk showing up late to the start by sitting in traffic on Beach Blvd (been there, done that).
So we enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and distracted ourselves with conversations about how perfect our husbands are and how adorable our children are. Except for when Katie let out a heavy sigh every hour or so, which reminded us that we couldn’t go to the bar and hang out, that we had to get to bed early, and that we had to run 26.2 miles again before reuniting with our perfect families.
I had an unusually perfect week before the race. I ate well and slept well, which usually isn’t the case leading up to a big race. I have been fine-tuning my diet, and I think I have finally figured out how to carbo load without feeling sluggish.
Though I must admit I was quite jittery during the last few days, and did silly things like send the wrong email to the wrong person which meant that I mistakenly sent someone an email which said the following:
“Katie this chick is going to be at Surf City. You better beat her. LOL!”
Oops. I sent it the lady that I wanted her to beat. Which was a total joke because the lady is a total stud that I greatly admire and we are 40-year-old running mothers. It was just a joke! We would be honored to eat her dust 30 minutes back.
I got an email back that said, “I don’t think you meant this email for me.”
Oops. So yes, I think I contracted ADHD that day, because I NEVER do things like that. I am a very cautious, over-thinking kind of person.
But let’s let’s talk about more of my foibles.
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on race morning and discovered via my iPhone, which I had turned off when I crawled into my roll-away bed the night before, that my family had survived a minor breakdown the night before over some lost data on the computer. Since I am the IT person at my house, they were all desperately texting me well into the night asking for my help.
Thank goodness they are perfect and were able to figure it all out without me!
So even though I had a pit in my stomach about the possibility of Oldest’s future falling apart around him because his mother selfishly ran off with her girlfriends to run a ridiculous number of miles to get some time to herself, I ate a Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bar and downed a Fluid Performance drink and crawled back into bed to consider the most important question of the day: which running shoes should I wear?
(I decided on the PureFlow 2 over the LunaRacer 3 just to be safe.)
With a bit of motherly concern still evident in my brow (I didn’t find out until after the race that all was well despite the lost data), and with a little more coffee and some oatmeal in my stomach to fortify me, my girlfriends and I walked over to the start line to check a gear bag and get the freaking marathon ball rolling.
I always know in the first mile of a race whether or not I “have it” that day.
I knew, as we took off into the still-dark morning, that I did.
I ran comfortably behind the 3:10 pace group.
Mile 1: 7:26.
For the first time ever, I decided to run a marathon without music. I thought I would be able to better concentrate on running even splits.
But I forgot about all of the random noises that people make when they are running, and I also forgot that when you run a marathon at a fairly fast clip, that no one really wants to chat with you.
Mile 2: 7:20
I didn’t look at my Garmin during this race. I wanted to try to run by feel, but I also wanted to have the numbers at my disposal just in case. Thankfully or NOT a man was pacing his three friends right around my range and called out splits for them every FEW SECONDS!
On pace, guys! Now we’re running tempo pace, might want to pull it back a bit. There we are…7:20. Nice work! (For the love of Hey-seuss! Stop shouting out the pace!)
Not only that, but another guy running nearby had his watch set to Pace Setter or whichever setting it is when your watch beeps EVERY TIME you fall off of goal pace.
So yes, I was forced to find a happy place in my own head, the same happy place one goes to when the chaos of having three boys threatens one’s mental stability.
It’s a familiar place.
Mile 3: 7:17
This was around the time I heard heavy footsteps approaching behind me and was certain that Big Foot had entered the Surf City marathon to finally wipe it off of his bucket list.
Hey-seuss cristo! Who the heck runs that heavy footed?
(No one tells you when you move up in pace groups that the general cultural of the 3:15-3:20 range is totally different than that of the 3:25-3:35 range. I found myself running with a lot of dudes in spandex britches, fancy tech shirts and watches that go beep beep.)
So yes, I probably should have worn my headphones.
Mile 4: 7:36
Perhaps there was a minor hill here. Or perhaps I got discouraged by the heavy footed runner.
Mile 5: 7:03
During this mile I did everything I could to escape Mr. Clomp Clomp.
He followed me. Which was lucky for me. That’s because MarathonFoto failed to see my bib number, so all I had to do to find pictures was look up Mr. Clomp who ended up coming in right behind me (him on right).
Mile 6: 7:21
Mile 7: 7:27
Mile 8: 7:28
Mile 9: 7:35 (uphill)
Mile 10: 7:11
Mile 11: 7:20
Mile 12: 7:22
Mile 13: 7:26
I think I lost contact with my group around this time, as I had a bit of difficulty chewing, GUing and drinking at water stops at my goal pace. (I need to work on this!)
Also, it was getting hot, as the sun was now beating down. One day I am going to run a cold marathon in a foggy place. One day.
Mile 14: 7:36
Mile 15: 7:38
Mile 16: 7:35
Mile 17: 7:27
Around this mile, a nice British dude replaced Mr. Clomp Clomp with heavy feet and a rapid cadence that made me worried for his survival. I glanced over at him, as he was running right on my shoulder, to check on him.
“I’m just trying to get to the port-a-potty!” he exclaimed.
This is the fun stuff you don’t get to experience when you have music blaring in your ears.
“I see it just ahead,” I reassured him.
We turned off of the PCH at this point onto the dreaded bike path, where one’s survival becomes purely Darwinian.
With 17 miles on one’s legs, one has to now dodge cyclists, small children running on to the path, and surfers headed out to the beach carrying fiberglass boards that threaten brain damage if run into at top speed.
Mile 18: 7:22
Mile 19: 7:29
I officially lost my group here. People began shouting that I was 11th or 12th female, which gave me the energy to start passing people.
Mile 20: 7:37
I felt a great deal of momentum, even though my legs felt otherwise. I felt tired, but everyone around me began to fall apart. Which meant that I didn’t have anyone to run with. I was in no-man’s land. Literally. (Unless you count the tourists that I dodged every few minutes.)
Mile 21: 7:43
I was still passing people, but slowing down as well. I passed a woman during this mile, a lady I had watched win the Santa Clarita marathon in 2013. She looked tired.
Mile 22: 7:48
Ironically, this is where I slowed. And this was the end of the distance of my longest run in training.
Mile 23: 7:50
Mile 24: 8:03
I finally saw the last lady I would have to pass to get on the leaderboard. I knew that I had to hold on, reel her in, and also save some juice.
Mile 25: 8:00
Though this might look like a death march pace-wise, I actually felt really good. I think that if I had had a pacer, I could have dropped back down a bit closer to goal pace. (Translation: I needed someone to yell at me like a drill sergeant!)
Anyway, during the last mile I passed her.
Mile 26: 7:51
But she wasn’t having it. She was fighting back.
Two 43-year-old women would have to duke it out for that 10th place spot, and we both wanted it.
I let her come up on my shoulder before I used my very last gear to sprint to the finish. #tracklife advantage
Mile .26: 6:30 (It felt like a sprint! Ha.)
I had to grab my knees for a few minutes to make absolutely certain that I would hold onto that Watermelon GU that I put down back at mile 8.
Thankfully I recovered. As I walked towards my medal, a nice gentleman congratulated me for my sprinting ways and thanked me for pulling him through to the end.
It was Mr. Clomp Clomp. He was very nice. He also apologized for his loud foot falls, which made me feel terrible. We exchanged a few more words, all of them cordial.
I found Katie, who had had a bad race for her. (3:13)
We exchanged stories and then decided to hit the beer garden as soon as possible.
Which meant that we were corralled into a line at the end of which someone shouted to us, “take two beers and keep moving!”
I was fascinated by the fact that all of these people who had just tortured themselves by running 26 miles were now all smiling, socializing and high-fiving right by the beach in Southern California while double-fisting IPA’s.
It was the perfect way to soak in the race and a few of the sun’s rays as well.
So even though I had GU on my hands, knees, all over my bib, and on my sports bra, I felt like the Surf City marathon was my most successful marathon yet. (I never said I was neat.)
Seriously though, this race gave me the confidence that I need to keep going with this silly hobby jogger activity, because I feel like more improvements are just around the corner.
I ran comfortably hard, but I also felt strong at the end. I also feel like I made a few mistakes, which makes me want to try it again.
Running marathons, even though it can be hard on my perfect family at times, feels totally worth the undertaking. In fact, I don’t think there is anything wrong with showing my boys what it looks like to #Runlikeagirl.
(I also inspired MFP, my perfect husband, to keep running, because I beat his time. Boom.)
Have a great day!