17 6 / 2013
My first marathon
When I first put my 30 before 30 list together, one of the line items I threw on there was “run a marathon (a real one).”
A part of me didn’t really think about the real requirements needed to achieve such an arduous task. Like so many other aerobic runners out there, I had a few half marathons under my belt. And since I have already completed a half, it wasn’t such a big deal to knock out a second one consecutively in one go, right?
Empowered by my naivety and admittedly a faint tinge of arrogance, three other friends and I decided to sign up and start training in January. Since we live in San Francisco, it made perfect sense for that to be our inaugural marathon. Oh, and six months also seemed like eons away.
I went on About.com, printed out a generic “beginner’s training guide,” laced up my shoes and started my leisurely three mile jaunts. A few weeks into my somewhat questionable regimen, one of my friends mentioned that she would be joining a running group. As the mileage required slowly racked up from five mile runs to ten to twelve and beyond, the gravity of the situation began to (finally) sink into my brain.
Um, holy crap. Twenty six miles is kind of a long way to run.
Armed with a newfound sense of humility and the fear of the unknown, the consecutive weeknights and Saturday mornings in the following months were sacrificed to the demands of the marathon. There were many groggy mornings, obligatory evening runs, quite a number of energy drops consumed, and it all culminated into this past Sunday: race day.
The week leading up to it was a taper week, so I spent Monday cross-training with a friend at a boxing class and took a very leisurely three mile run in the middle of the week. Before I knew it, it was Saturday evening at 9 p.m. and I was lying in bed, waiting for the next day.
My nerves kept me tossing and turning, and I jolted awake at 2 a.m. only to realize that I hadn’t missed the start time…so I got another fitful two hours of sleep. At 4:30 a.m., I dragged myself out of bed and got ready. I vaguely remembering drinking a bit of water and eating a piece of toast with peanut butter, and soon I was in the car and on the way with my friends.
We were dropped off near the course and headed to the Run 365 tent, the running program that we joined. We were greeted by familiar faces, and although I had changed my start time from wave 8, the last one (I had very low expectations of my performance) to wave 6, we decided to go with the rest of our group on wave 5.
We watched as the first three waves hustled forward and the siren blared, marking the start of their group. When wave 4 disappeared into the distance, we waited as everyone in our wave eagerly rushed forward.
And then it was our turn.
Somehow, we managed to be at the very back of our wave. As the other runners trotted ahead, the four of us found ourselves jogging quite alone in the street. It was awesome.
One of the things that they told us when we started training was not to bust out of the gate like a ravenous horse chasing a carrot. After all, as the saying goes, it’s a marathon - not a sprint. Even though the pulsing adrenaline of the day can seep into your mind and muscles, it was really important to keep a steady pace.
For the first five miles, it was all gravy.
There I was: chugging along, the breeze blowing through my under armor cap, and my muscles still unaware of what was about to happen to them. I thought I was gonna rule this marathon like a boss. Even cooler was the sight of the bridge.
- It’s really pretty awesome to have the chance to run across the Golden Gate bridge. I mean, it’s the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. It’s like being given the chance to rappel down the Statue of Liberty (Which, for the record, if that is ever an option I’m tooootally down for that. Can someone make it happen?)
- It’s less awesome to run one effing lane of a bridge with 20,927,572,983 other people. And not just 20,927,572,983 people, but 20,927,572,983 people who want to go fast…and much faster than you.
- I hadn’t had a chance in my training to run the bridge. That thing feels like foreva-eva and a half.
After conquering those ten miles, something started to happen to me. In all of my training runs, I hadn’t felt sore this early…but suddenly parts of me started to ache that didn’t ache before.
My left foot ached. My left calf ached. My right knee was starting to bark at me. I checked the Nike+ app that I had on my phone, and realized I was going at a slightly faster pace than I was used to…and it was nonstop.
And we weren’t even halfway yet.
“No matter,” I thought to myself, “just keep moving, just keep moving.” I was Dory from Finding Nemo, except in the form of a bipedal human without the short-term memory loss.
Then, we entered the park, one of the places where fellow runners had warned would be quite mentally challenging. Why? Because all you see are trees. Stupid, boring, awful, taunting trees, everywhere. Everywhere you twist and turn, there they were: more @#$@% trees.
On a side note, one of the other lovely parts of running a marathon that nobody really tells the uninitiated is the unpleasant fact that sometimes, mother nature beckons. Well, beckon is the wrong word…more like shows up at the door in the middle of the night jamming her stupid finger in the doorbell jolting you from any peace you had.
From the start of the race, a little voice was squirming and hoping that I wouldn’t need to do my business. Every time we ran by the portable bathrooms, a queue of ten or so impatient people formed outside. But around mile twelve, I couldn’t ignore it.
“You go ahead, I’m going to run to the bathroom really quickly,” I said to my friend — at that point, we were still keeping pace with each other. She told me not to worry, she would go ahead to the water station to take a few seconds.
I bolted as fast as I could (given the circumstances) to the set of port a potties, eyeing which one would have the green sign up. When I found one, I yanked open the door………only to see another runner already occupying the space.
“SORRY SORRY SORRY!!!” I yelped, slamming the door and then heading to the one next to it.
Let that be a lesson future runners: no matter how badly you need to go, someone else needs to go just as badly so lock the door.
After the slight detour we made our way out of the park (finally) and down Haight street. Miles 18 and 19 seemed to stretch on even further than the previous ones. But I knew that at mile 20, I would see some familiar faces.
At that point I started to lag, so I waved my friend on. At mile 20, I felt a surge of happiness when I saw my fiance and friend screaming their heads off and cheering for me.
But then… the wall.
The realization that in all the training runs, I had only done up to 20 miles…and I had six more to go.
I didn’t just hit the wall. I slammed headfirst into it, and I was suddenly in a daze. It was like a part of me was going through the stages of grief. First it was denial that I was even in the marathon.
Then, I was angry. Really, really angry. Every small incline that happened in mile 21 and 22 was like a personal affront. It was as though the course creators wanted to give runners the proverbial finger. A big hearty F*** you to your muscles and your dreams of completing a marathon.
“I HATE YOU, MARATHON,” I screamed silently. ”CURSE YOU AND YOUR WRETCHEDNESS.”
Near the end of mile 22 and 23, the bargaining phase happened. ”If you just run a little further, you can take a small break,” I told myself. ”You deserve it. Heck, you know what, go ahead. Walk a few steps. Go on. I won’t tell. I won’t tell a soul. Then you’ll pick up speed again, right? Totally. Go on. I trust you.”
Frustrated, I took a few steps, only to sink into a form of mild depression. I worked so hard, and I couldn’t run the whole way? What were all those months for? Why did I train if I wasn’t going to finish strong?
Curse you, marathon!
And at mile 24, I realized: only two miles left.
Two. I could do two. I could do two no problem.
In a rather zen-like moment, I took out my ear buds where the music was blasting. I decided to ignore the mechanical female voice of the Nike+ app that taunted me with the mile markers (I had started the app early, so it kept telling me I was hitting miles before I actually hit them…urgh) and focused on my breathing. Breathing in, breathing out, step, step, one after the other.
Ahead of me, I saw AT&T park. As I finally crossed the flag that had mile 25, I knew it was almost time. Spectators on the sides shouted out words of encouragement. Two little girls waved flags: “Less than a mile, you’re doing great, less than a mile, you’re doing great!” One man shouted, “Less than four minutes!”
I could hear the crowds ahead of me. People who had finished the race already were sauntering back, their medals around their neck.
I knew I could do it. My fiance and friend on the sidelines saw me running by, and with a huge ear-to-ear grin, I waved at them as I plowed forward to my final goal: the finish line.
I looked up at the camera, waved my arms, and crossed. Just as I crossed, I remembered to turn around and snap a photo - pixelated proof that I had, indeed, conquered and checked off an item off my bucket list with pain and gusto.
And of course, as I slowed down, my legs remembered that they hated me.
Dazed, I had the medal strung around my neck and my hands were jammed full of coconut water, chocolate milk, fruit, and other food. I wobbled back over to the tent to grab my items, somehow managed to find my group of friends and then sat down, soaking in the sun and the day. We waited for the rest of the girls to finish, and we snapped photos.
Definitely a memorable moment! And I was so glad I got to share it with some special ladies.
A few parting thoughts for anybody out there who is contemplating doing a marathon:
- You can do it. Really, you can.
- When they say to keep everything the same in the training runs, do it. I decided stupidly not to carry water since there would be so many hydration stations…only to be caught several times feeling incredibly thirsty, which made things a little worse.
- As someone said to me, “pain is temporary, glory is forever” - and there really is nothing like the amazing feeling of telling everybody you know that you ran an effing marathon for the first time. After the first time, then you’re just one of those crazy people who run marathons. Repeatedly.
- The day after, you’ll try to find any possible way to naturally bring up the fact that you just ran that effing marathon. (I’ll probably do this for the next week).
- Spectators are amazing. If you are one, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
- Make sure your significant other is there to pamper you. It helps extra if you wear your medal around everywhere, and just point to it wordlessly.
- Celebrate your face off.
26.2 complete! TIME TO CELEBRATE!!!
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08 6 / 2013
06 6 / 2013
06 6 / 2013
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04 6 / 2013
Zion National Park: Narrows, Canyons, and Rappelling, oh my!
Have you ever had phrases that you find yourself repeating and then you immediately reflect and think… man, I sound so old. Well, one of the phrases for me is: “I can’t believe how much time has already flown by.”
With the last year of my twenties looming ahead in two months, it seems that my task of completing 30 things before 30 is going a little slowly. But, complete or not, it’s still a lot of fun trying to check things off.
This past Memorial Day weekend I obtained #11 - visit and camp in a state park that I’ve never been to.
One of the many perks of living in California (cue massive eye roll here) is the fact that there is a plethora of nature that abounds in all four directions. You can go north to the mountains of Tahoe, drive south (and west) to the beaches on the coast, or you can trek east to some pretty awesome parks with massive trees that have weathered decades.
Recently, my friend planned an outing to Zion National Park. We flew in Friday from San Francisco to Las Vegas, arrived around 11pm and then made the 2.5 hour drive to Utah. The next morning, we tackled one of the most popular hikes: the Narrows.
We rented some special shoes and socks, and armed with a hiking stick, we started our eight hour journey.
I’ve seen photos before, but there really aren’t the words to describe the sweeping canyon walls of red, orange, white and snatches of black. When you look above you can see the sliver of blue sky, and the crevices of light shine through, illuminating the sandstone cliffs. Birds often swirled above, trilling and chirping. And, all the while, the river laps around your ankle and legs.
After five miles of trekking through water, disaster found us. One of the girls in our group ended up slipping and twisting her ankle on a rock. With no cell phone reception, the only option was for her to either wait for us to find a park ranger (a four hour hike there, and possibly back) or…to hobble across the river rocks by herself. With true grit, she chose the latter.
What a boss.
Enthralled by the sights from the hike and coated with the dirt and sweat from the eight hours there and back, we returned to our “camp” site (does it still count if we all just ended up staying in a super nice house? I’m going to say it does…) for dinner.
Of course, even on the ride back the sunset was amazing.
The next day, we woke up bright and early again for our next adventure: rappelling! For those of you who might not be familiar, it’s basically the fun part of rock climbing. We were taken by two guides to a canyon outside of the National Park (you aren’t allowed to do private tours in the park) where we scaled down the jagged cliffs.
After our group made our way down, we had to squeeze ourselves through a small space known as…the birthing canal. Yep.
Pretty awesome views from the top as we scaled back down.
The next thing on the agenda was the third and final activity of the trip — the Angel’s Landing hike!
Even though I don’t have much hiking experience as a frame of reference, I would imagine that this hike would make it as one of the most mentally challenging ones for me.
During the hike there were sheer drop offs on either side, chains to hold onto (just in case you needed it) and plenty of signs everywhere noting the dangers (oh you know, only six deaths since 2006… great).
At certain points of the hike, I think I was basically on my hands and knees crawling and hoping that some heavy wind wouldn’t knock me off balance. Was it worth it?
Of course, the obligatory “look, I made it!” photo …
I was sitting because, well… better safe (and seated) than sorry.
On our last night, we hung out in our “campsite” and the next day made our way back to Las Vegas. Although there are a multitude of places around the world that I am itching to go see and explore, it still amazes me how beautiful our own country can be.
Onward to the next adventure!
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03 6 / 2013
"Nobody likes to fail but failure is an essential part of life and of learning. If your uniform isn’t dirty, you haven’t been in the game."
28 5 / 2013
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23 5 / 2013
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21 5 / 2013
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21 5 / 2013