Sunday, March 6, 2016

Napa Valley Marathon

I ran the Napa Valley Marathon this past March and wanted to blog about it before I forgot too many of the details.  In some ways, I have so many memories of our time in Napa and in other ways, it is just a big blur.

Saturday, March 5th
I flew from Denver to San Francisco.  Ian flew from Santa Ana (where he had been at a conference for grad school) up to San Francisco.  We rented the cheapest car we could at the airport.  BUT they were out of them?  So we got a new Dodge Charger to drive around California.  It was fun and super nice!  The three main things I remember from Saturday is #1) The weather was not great - it was rainy sideways.  and #2.) I kept telling Ian, "I can't believe that I am going to run a marathon tomorrow.  Have I even trained for this?"  Considering that I had spent the last 6 months of my life doing little else, I am not sure why my brain had such a hard time processing that I was really going to run a marathon again. #3.) We stopped on our drive from San Franscisco up to Napa for some Vaseline/aquaphor.  I had read on a blog earlier that week to slather yourself in it if you are going to run a marathon in the rain to prevent chafing - I took the advice and did not chafe at all.

We checked out the race expo and found our hotel.  I went for a quick 2 mile run on the dreadmill (in the most ghetto 24 hour fitness ever) and we went out for dinner at the Olive Garden (while it continued to rain sideways).  We tried to get to bed early.

Sunday, March 6th.
RACE DAY!  From the moment I woke up (which was really early) I tried to manage my nervousness by telling myself that I was wasting energy to have my heart rate up and "the hay was already in the barn".  I covered myself with vaseline as I was anxious about chafing. IT STOPPED RAINING (later on the bus, I heard some people say it stopped around 3:30am).  Huge Shoutout to Ian - he woke up super early to drive me to the dropoff point and did a great job of listening to me ramble about running stuff.  I don't know if I could run races without Ian.

I got to the finish line and found a bus to jump on.  We were driven 26.2 miles out to the start line.  26.2 miles is a long, long way when you are riding on a bus with strangers in the dark at five o'clock in the morning.  An older guy sat next to me on the bus.  We chatted a bit, but I think he was just as nervous as I was.
This was right behind the port-a-pots.  Prettiest Starting Line Ever!
Once we got to the start line, people were piling off the bus.  I stayed on with about 5 other people.  It was chilly outside and we were in the middle of nowhere and still had an hour before race started.  Eventually, I got off, found the restroom and warmed up a bit.  I was thankful that I had layered up because it was cold.  It felt like time had stopped and 7am would never come. The announcer/starter was hilarious!  He carried on conversations with people over the microphone (we could only hear his side).

Finally it was time to start!  They sang the national anthem and said a benediction.  I threw my throw away pants to the side, took a selfie, and we were off.
Ready to roll
Miles 1-6 - weather: sunny
I had a hard time settling into a good pace.  I started out too slow and then I was running way too fast.  There weren't any pace groups and I did not want to spend the entire race staring at my watch.  I will say that I felt SO LOVED during those first six miles - my phone was going off like crazy with texts of well wishes from people in Colorado (and Illinois).  I read each one.  It made me realize how strong of a community we have here.

I also was texting my girls, Emily and Allie.  Although they did not physically train with me each day, they were my support from the get go.  They listened to me talk about training and long runs and fueling on long runs and played, "this is the better than..." and never once made me feel like I talked about marathon training too much.

For the most part, I was running about 10 seconds per mile faster than I wanted.  I kept telling myself, "save it for mile it for mile it for mile 20".  I finally got into a good rhythm of running off of feel for the first half mile of each mile and then slowing myself down and really focusing on my watch for the second half of each mile.

I ate a couple bites of a clif bar at mile 6 and congratulated myself for getting close to be 25% of the way done.

Mile 7-12 weather: cloudy
There was someone around my pace named Amy.  Amy had the BEST friends.  Her friends made a sign that Amy's name on it.  Spectators were only allowed at certain points on the course.  Amy's friends were at every single spectator spot.  So I started cheering for them.  "Yeah, Amy's friends!  You guys ROCK!  What great friends!!"  There were also people sitting in lawn chairs in their driveways drinking their coffee cheering us on - it was so cute.  I was feeling good about my rhythm of half a mile off of feel, half a mile off of the watch.  I think I was coming through mile markers about a minute (overall) faster than I wanted to.  I did a lot of math during miles 6-20.  I had another snack around mile 12/13.

Miles 13-20 weather: mix of clouds and sun, some sections were crazy windy.
I can not remember anything too specific about these miles.  I think I did a lot of math about my pace and I played, "this is the better than..." and texted Emily and Allie a couple of times.  I really tried to focus in and just take it a mile as it came.  I settled into running near someone else (Amy perhaps?!?) for about 5 miles.  It was nice to pace off someone and not worry so much about my timing.

Mile 20 - I remember two things as I passed the 20 Mile Marker: #1.) I wanted to be done.  I was exhausted, but I just wanted to stop running at that point and #2.) My stomach did not feel great.  I decided to skip my snack.  I convinced myself to try to keep drinking water. (My water had Nuun in it.)

Getting from mile 20-21 felt like the lllooonnngggeeesssttt mile of my life.  I think I checked my watch about 200 times during that mile.  My pace was okay, but my brain was having a hard time doing the math.  Mile 20 feels like such a great accomplishment.  I started counting down at mile one: 1 mile down, 25 to go.  So by the time 20 rolls around, it feels like you are almost done.  Except you still have 55 minutes of running to go.

Mile 21-23 weather: cloudy
I remember getting really scared because my brain was having a hard time thinking.  I kept trying to figure out my pace and where I should be but I just could hold all the numbers in my mind.  I am not sure how I stayed on pace at this point (running at sea level? the bajillon squats and lunges I did during training?) but I am so glad my legs kept rolling.

Mile 23 & 24
The sky opened up and poured - which was awesome.  It felt so good that have the rain cool us off.  I am a salty sweater, so salt was getting in my eyes, but I did not care too much. Some people I was running by were saying things like, "Thank you Jesus!  Thank you Jesus for this rain!"  I tried to play "this is better than ___" but I could not think past a few words.  My pace was okay.  My stomach hurt.  My legs were fatigued.  I started to realize that as long as I did not 100% tank I was going to make it under 4 hours.

Mile 24.5-26.2
At mile 24.5 I hit the wall.  I think I had hit the wall mentally back around mile 20 but my body was done at 24.5.  I wanted to stop.  I knew my form was not great.  I knew my pace was not great.  I just wanted to stop.  The finish line felt miles and miles away.  Thankfully I texted Emily at some point and she texted back, "BREATHE!" which was actually really helpful.  I could focus on breathing.  Also, I was with it enough to know that as long as I did not quit, I would PR.  My garmin had me at 26.2 in 3 hours 56 minutes and 47 seconds.  The race was a bit longer (26.5?) and I finished in 3:58 on their time.  I cried as I came down the shoot and finished.  I was so happy to have finally finished a marathon in under 4 hours.  Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Once I crossed the finish line, an older volunteer man thought I was going to pass out.  He grabbed my arm and made me walk around.  I did not have warm or happy feelings towards him.  I just wanted to sit down.  I had convinced myself the last 6 miles if I could just sit down my stomach would feel better.  Ian came and rescued me from the old man.  I made Ian promise me that if I ever talk about running another marathon that he would break both my legs.  He just looked at me and said, "Wait ten years - you will run another one."  Example #908839473 of Ian knows me better than I know myself.

We hung out quite a while after the race.  I got a free massage.  Ian walked all the way to the car in a downpour to grab my bag.  The finish line was at a high school so they had (hot!) showers available.  It may have been the best shower of my life.  The person who won the marathon won their weight in wine.  They actually put them on a two balance scale with the person one side and wine on the other side.

Our San Francisco (and Friday night) Tradition
Eventually we started to head back towards San Francisco.  We had not gotten far when I told Ian that we needed to stop at a grocery store.  Thank the Lord that I was aware enough to tell him.  He pulled into the parking lot.  I asked him to go in and buy some Sprite.  He parked.  I jumped out and started puking next to a tree, barefooted.  It was not the best moment of my life.  Ian came out with the Sprite.  I sent him back in for napkins or paper towels or something.  He came back out.  I think I asked him to go back in for something else, but I can't remember.  Thankfully I felt much better after I threw up (unlike my previous marathon).

Headed Home!
We found a great Korean restaurant on our way back to San Francisco.  We also stopped by Buena Vista for an Irish Coffee (for Ian).  We stayed in a hotel near the airport so we returned the rental car and went to bed.  I think we woke up at 2:30 the next morning for an early flight.  Ian had his Hebrew midterm when we got back to Denver.  I was excited to go to school the next day and tell my students that I had done well.  They were so sweet and supportive (or just knew how to get me to not talk about math...)

Whew!  That was a long post.  I am so proud of the work I put in to accomplish a goal that I had set for myself 5 years ago.  I am thankful for the community that celebrates us and with us.  I am in awe of the One who is Emmanuel - He was with me every moment of my training and racing.

Bucket List:
run a marathon under 4 hours

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