Here we go…let’s tackle this race recap and all the feels in Marathon #4!
My last post was a bit of a pity party and
maybe very dramatic as I reflected back on my panicked reactions to the issues I faced before the race. I would say that this post will be less dramatic but this marathon was an emotional roller coaster so I can’t make any promises!
Lets talk logistics – the race was very organized and transportation to the race was readily available. Ubers and taxis were easy to get (even at 4:30 in the morning) and were able to drop off really close to the start line. There were a sufficient amount of porta-potties and lines were quick and easy. Getting to the corrale was also easy and signs were clearly labeled.
I stuck my throw-away shirt up in a tree because it actually wasn’t meant to be a throw away…. it was just the cheapest of my nice running shirts that I had in my suitcase, haha. My hiding skills were on point because it was still nestled in the tree after the race! Except this time my legs were not really able to jump and get it so I needed help. haha.
Going into the race, I was confident with how my long runs were going and was not sure how the race would play out. My training was nothing like Boston seeing as I decided to run the race 5 weeks before the race date so the idea of getting a PR didn’t seem logical. However, a part of me felt that maybe the Boston heat impacted my performance even though I did not feel it directly affecting my performance while I was running. I doubt/hope that made sense. I was very interested to see if my Boston training was still with me and with the additional training and good weather conditions, I could pull off a sub 3:15. So I guess you could say, I had some goals but no expectations….Basically – My goals were high and were going to be a challenge but I was willing to take the risk because I had nothing to lose and no expectations to uphold.
The hills. Yes, I am aware San Francisco is known for their hills but for some reason, I didn’t recall it being that hilly last year. In hindsight…THAT’S BECAUSE I WAS CHASING A SUB 3:30 AND NOT A SUB 3:15! **Note to self – a 30 second pace difference really amplifies everything.
Now that that’s out there, let’s move forward. I spotted the 3:15 pacer in my Wave and made a decision – that I still do not regret – to stay with the pacer. With such a stressful morning, I can’t tell you how relaxing it was to stay with the pacer and let him do the thinking. My only task was to stay relaxed, keep my mind at ease and move my feet. I did not have to worry about going too fast or too slow because that was his job.
However, (here is my dramatic line) – the one downfall with a pacer is that it is easy to feel like a goal is slipping away if the pacer gets ahead of you and that can cause some unnecessary stress at random points. But I guess that is the same as clocking a shocking time on your Garmin ..I wouldn’t know because mine was broken in my bra 😉 haha. Aside from that one downfall, the pacer was my savior and being with him was the most relaxing part of the day. For the first time all morning, I did not have to think or worry. I just had to do what I came there to do…run.
The pace felt great and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge (twice) was a scene to take in. At mile 9/10 I saw Meredith and Jewel starting their trek over the bridge as I was coming off of it. I gave them the biggest smile and wave. At the moment I was the on Cloud 9 and just so genuinely happy. I was amped up after seeing a familiar and cute face and the pace felt so comfortable even being a little ahead of the pacer. I remembered saying to myself, “you can do this pace for another 16 miles Mel, this is your pace!”….andddd then we encountered the never ending ups and downs. The first few climbs I was able to stick with the pacer and remained calm but around mile 13/14 my stomach was not happy with my decision to eat a late dinner. I pushed that thought to the side, choked down Gu’s…which is totally not my style. I am probably the only person on the course who just can’t wait for that lovely taste of sugary chocolate to hit my mouth and give me that spike in energy. But in this case, I just didn’t want any Gu’s and I knew that with each Gu it was making the bathroom look more like a necessity rather than a choice. (TMI for those non-runners or more proper runners who find this absolutely grotesque) I started falling more and more behind the 3:15 pacer so when I spotted a bathroom at mile 16ish, I took the hit and said goodbye to my 3:15. I am sure it tacked on at least a minute but I felt physically better and was emotionally recharged despite being a little bummed.
Miles 16-20 were a manageable struggle but I was certainly fighting doubts. I had to remind myself countless times that I was struggling at Mile 17 at Boston and still put up a good fight and a good time.
Miles 20-26…these miles never feel good but they felt exceptionally terrible this time around. Approaching mile 20, I couldn’t help but think this was “the wall”. People talk about hitting the wall and I don’t think I ever really knew what that meant and how that felt because as I said earlier, these miles are not supposed to feel good. It was 6 miles of repeated doubt followed by positive self talk. I had to keep chipping away at the distance, one foot in front of the other. I knew I wasn’t going to quit but there were moments I just wanted to. I remember just stopping around mile 24 for about 5 seconds to shake out my legs but it had nothing to do with my legs. I needed to mentally regroup. At mile 25 I tried to push, I wanted to finish strong and I did not want to get passed by any more females. When I saw the finish line, I was pushing to get there but also fighting tears. I saw my friend screaming in the crowd and I used that to fuel my final kick. When I saw my time, I was
shocked impressed. I thought I was hovering around 3:25 s0 3:19 was a blessing! But all I could do was let out a burst of tears at the finish. I am not much of a crier and I was not disappointed with my time so I still have not been able to process why I lost it at the finish. The only reason I can come to is that for the last 8 miles I was fighting away those negative thoughts…You know when you bottle up a cry session and then all it takes is something so irrelevant and small to cause you to break and let it go..and when you do you feel 100 times better? That was this. I spent 8 miles/over an hour bottling up emotions because I knew that breaking down would just waste energy and do no good. I fought the tears away and when the finish line came I was finally able to let it out. Yup. Dramatic. But thats the marathon for you. They don’t call it 90% mental and 10% physical for no reason so I here was 90% of mental craziness! 🙂
Did I hit the wall or was I just experiencing those dreadful last miles of a marathon?
I didn’t think I hit the wall at Boston but the final 6 miles were a real struggle so why was this struggle worse?
I think I finally have come to conclusion and can put this to rest. The crowds and the people.
In Philly I had Bethany by my side for almost the entire race. Together we helped each other fight the mental battle. Just knowing you are not alone is, in fact, extremely empowering. I needed Bethany and she needed me so we put out own struggles aside and focused on pushing for the other person.
In Boston, I was struggling but the crowds and seeing my friends helped me pull through. The energy from the crowd injects you with the motivation and confidence that you would otherwise need to muster up yourself..which can be emotionally draining and add to your already fatigued state.
In both races, I had others to help me with that 90% mental game. In San Francisco, that 90% fell on me. There were not many spectators and no one along the course to help me regroup, I had to stop for a second to help myself regroup. With Bethany by my side and the crowds in Boston, stopping was never an option.
Despite all the complaining, this race was HUGE for me. I was reminded of the importance of those final pre-race preparation details. I realized that my mental game needs to be a little stronger but even being fairly weak, I can still persevere. Most importantly, I learned that a 3:15 is entirely feasible.
The bathroom stop and some moments of psyching myself out were pretty evident with those over 8 paces but I am extremely confident that those errors and tacked on time can be eliminated and lessons to be learned moving forward!
I still love this distance 🙂