Nike Women’s Marathon Race Report: Going way beyond comfort levels….
Well. What a race. The marathon deserves and demands much respect. if you do not train properly (i.e. enough), it will be a painful experience. Gonna be painful anyway, but not training enough will put your further into the hurt box. Such was my experience today at the Nike Women’s Marathon; my 3rd go at this particular race and my 9th marathon overall.
The start area is tremendous. 30,000 women packed into San Francisco’s Union Square to begin the journey at 6:30am. The thunderous crowd of females (and a few males) lined the narrow streets and waited for the countdown; 10, 9, 8…
A few strides in and I knew. I knew it was going to be a tough day for me. My legs just felt heavy. Tired. My quads. Not a good sign.
The start is a bit staggered but even so, it is very congested and for the first 3 miles, it is very packed. Runners moving tightly together, trying to find some space..It felt a bit surreal for me those first 1-3 miles. Felt like I was floating…couldn’t really get a good grasp of my feet. Strange. After we weaved our way through the financial district, we hit the Embarcadero and it was still quite dark out. Great running weather; about 50 degrees and foggy. The first 6 miles are almost all flat — just 2 very very short hills. Can you believe I had forgotten my earbuds so i was without my own music. very disappointed about this…could have really used it in the later miles…
Between running this race 2 times in the past, the SF marathon 2x and the SF 1/2 marathon 2 times, and all the training I’ve done, I knew this course well. I knew where the hilly parts were and what to expect, etc…but, today, it didn’t matter. Miles 6-11 are the most hilly…some steep climbs up through the Presidio area, Sea Cliff and then a long steep downhill past the Cliff House and into Golden Gate Park. The first 13 miles are “tougher” than the 2nd 13 from a standpoint of course difficulty, but of course the back half of the race is tougher because well….it’s 13 more miles!! Unfortunately, I started to feel physically bad around mile 9. Even after the long downhill around mile 10 didn’t help. In fact, my quads were feeling it there…very tender. So, basically from that point on until around mile 17, I found myself having a raging battle in my head!!! (THAT is a long time to have a battle in your head let me tell you!!)
Here is some of what it was like in my head: maybe you should not finish. maybe you need to stop. maybe you just need to call this a training run and let it go. then i have to explain to friends what happened. i don’t want to do that. i don’t want to disappoint them. disappoint myself. but, what do you have to prove? you have already run 8 marathons! you are already in pain…think of how much more pain you will be if you keep going? you have a long way to go still, Angie. this is driving me crazy. this is not fun. there is no way I will reach my goal of 4:20ish. my time will be bad. who cares? check your ego! let go!! i guess this is what happens when you don’t put in as many training miles as you should. ugh. crap. i don’t know what to do. i have to decide soon. just focus on one mile at a time.
So several times, i thought i would pull myself from the course and thereby receive a DNF…Did Not Finish for this race. There were several opportunities to do so at very attractive points on the course; Mile 13 and between miles 16-17 for example. Once I was past mile 17, I knew if I did in fact pull myself, I would have a long and unpleasant walk back to the finish line and where the shuttle was located to take us back to the start. For a few miles probably between 9-12, my mind was fixated on “should i stop”. There was a lot of badgering going on inside my head…the pros, the cons, the very realistic reasons why it would be ok. I suppose during those miles I was trying to come to peace with that possible decision. I guess I never found that peace. I stopped somewhere along the great highway between miles 17-18. I looked around and then started running again. A few minutes later, I stopped again. This time, I looked back and glanced at the runners behind me and who were now passing me in these few seconds. All I could think was; “how can I possibly NOT finish?”
And, so..i kept moving.
With full knowledge, I not only embraced the pain, I literally DOVE right in it and said, ‘Ok…I get it…it’s your time to take over…but, know this…you will not break me.’
It’s an interesting thing…to knowingly dive into something you know will be challenging and very painful….especially when you know you have the choice. No one was forcing me to keep running. I could have stopped at any time. I’ve already run the marathon 8 times. What did it matter on this day that I finish? I hadn’t trained enough and I was clearly paying the price for not giving the marathon the absolute full respect it demands and deserves. Hands down. Really, what did it matter….I had nothing to prove to anyone. Did I? I guess the answer just came down to the fact that I truly owed it to the race, to the event itself, to finish. And, I owed it to me…for the amount of training i HAD put in. And I felt I owed it to the many other women out there…who were struggling in their own right…who were on the own journey…i owed it to them, my comrades on this day, to finish.
I felt more mentally and physically challenged than I have experienced in a while. And because of this, to finish, felt like a win. I had to dig deeper and stay focused more than I have ever had to before (or that I can remember) Miles 21-26 were super tough. I started to have some GI issues around miles 21-23….i was so sick of eating Hammer Gels and GU’s…i had also taken in 1/2 banana, 1 orange slice, 3 individual Clif Shot Blocks and a few sips of NUUN Electrolyte Mix. All of this was making my stomach not feel too good. Also, I did something I almost never do in a race; i stopped to urinate in a port-a-potty, not once, but twice! Arrrgghh! I truly hate having to stop for things while running. Usually, just a few short stops thru some of the water areas and I am good to go. But, today, was a whole different story and I just had to accept the circumstances and keep moving forward.
As I finish writing this 2 days post race, I feel this race experience perhaps taught me more than any other. It really feels quite profound. This was my overall 2nd worst finish time. And yet, It could very well be the marathon I am most proud of. Isn’t that something??!!
I definitely wouldn’t say I had fun out there…well, maybe I do enjoy the pain in some weird way…But, if you asked me after any marathon if i had fun, i would probably say no. It’s not a FUN event. I relish the experience. I enjoy the challenge. I bask in trying to find out just what I am capable of on any given day with the set of circumstances laid before me. That’s the “juice” for me. That’s what its always been about for me. Running…has been and is such an amazing teacher and the marathon is the event where there is a mirror all around you and you learn. You learn your strengths, weaknesses, etc…you see where you want to quit. And where you won’t. Where as ok as it could be, the fact of the matter is, you just must keep going. Some days, that is the only choice.
I thought I might cry a bit when I crossed the finish line, but I didn’t. That happened hours later when i came home and laid on my bed. I cried. For what it took. For what it gave. For me. going full circle.
Finish Time: 4 hours, 40 minutes, 27 seconds. — 2nd worst finish time. well….
What I ate: 6 gels, (Hammer Gel and GU Energy); 1/2 banana, 1 orange wedge, sips of Nuun Electrolyte.
Shoes worn: Nike Flynit (my orange pair)
Shorts: North Face (flight series) love these!
Shirt: Nike Dri-Fit Short Sleeve
Socks: Injinji toe socks…the best! no blisters ever.
Hat: San Francisco Running Co (orange hat)
Oh…yeah…this is the marathon that does NOT give you a medal….instead you get a little Tiffany Blue Box with a necklace after you cross the finish line. Each year it is different. In honor of the races 10th Anniversary, this was the necklace this year:
On the back, it has inscribed: Nike Women’s 2013 Marathon San Francisco.
Some stats I pulled from the Race Results:
most women ran the HALF – MARATHON; 26,402
Full marathon runners: 4,364
That stat alone makes me feel a little more bad ass. :)
In my age group W 40-44, I came in 168 out of 433.
Thanks for reading and to those of you who know me and cheer me on in my crazy endeavors…Thank you.