Whew, it’s over! Needless to say I’m very excited and happy that the marathon has come and gone. No more training in the 2nd (or 3rd, there’s some debate) snowiest winter on the record books, no more training in the fricken windiest (according to the record books kept by ME!) spring EVER and no more worrying about heat and hills. I did it. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. And when I say it wasn’t easy, that’s an understatement. Let me elaborate…
It all started like any other race. The day before (or perhaps the two days before) I started obsessing about the race and had SO MUCH nervous energy it was nuts. My husband was able to take a cat nap while I sat in the hotel room and laid out perfectly my clothes, my knee bands, my Gu, etc. And then I checked it and double checked it. All while husband was still sleeping. — The night before the race we went out w/ friends for a pasta dinner and then it was off to bed.
Race day started too damn early w/ an alarm call at 3:45am. After dressing I began my tiring ritual of bouncing. And by now all of you should know why I bounce and for that don’t… I’m not about to get into it now. I bounced, bounced and bounced some more. All without the desired results. Then I realized it was because I was bouncing on soft carpeting instead of a hard floor. This freaked me out a tad when I realized this and I scrambled to find a hard surface to continue my jumping. But I was running out of time. I ended up leaving the hotel and getting on the shuttle not feeling at all secure in my bounce factor. I took so much Imodium to try and counter what the bouncing didn’t help with that I was dangerously close to going over the daily/weekly limit!! I swear I was going to try and block up my system with anything I had so daily limits be damn!
On the shuttle to the race I was busy finishing getting ready. Pinning on Gu, adjusting knee bands, applying Body Glide to body parts that it was still appropriate to apply Body Glide on in front of other people. I was surprisingly not as nervous as I thought I’d be at this point. I think the whole bad-bouncing thing had me focused on other issues of the race and not so much on the running (not that type of running at least) itself.
We got to the starting area andI was getting pretty excited. Every single person there was about to run a marathon… including me! That’s a whole bunch of great energy. Husband and I gear checked our bag and like every other runner, got in line (the wrong and slowest moving line) for the porta potties. At this point we had contact w/ two of our Rock the Route crew. Team Jolene was in full force w/ poster and everything. They were ready for “Race Day” (must be said in a high pitch, slightly squeeling voice)! The first poster was awesome and man, Captain Jolene out did herself w/ the posters… this puppy was ready for any weather (apparently she thought the race was in Green Bay with variable conditions and not San Diego where the weather never changes). It was vinyl and weather proof.
Shortly after we got done w/ the porta potties it was time to get into our corral and get ready for the start of the race. I was still doing okay, nerves wise. I didn’t want to spit up in my mouth or anything. This is a progress for me.
After a short wait… we’re off. It took us about 5 minutes to cross the start line and it wasn’t long after that things went down hill (granted that’s the only thing that went downhill… damn San Diego hills that don’t even look like hills but are and they will fuck you up!).
The first few miles went by pretty uneventfully. I didn’t feel great but I didn’t think much about that because I always have a bad first mile or two… always. So I assumed after the second mile, I’d find my rhythm and be fine. Around mile 4 we started looking for Team 2… Stosh and Sarah. We weren’t sure where they were going to be but we thought they were going to try and head to mile 4 or mile 5. We finally spotted them around mile 6. We spotted them before they spotted us. They had the video camera going and were rockin’ the route for us and for all runners (can’t wait to see the video).
Shortly after we saw Team 2, I remember thinking… “I can’t believe how hard this is”. I didn’t realize it was only going to get harder. Somewhere between mile 7 and 8 was the start of a gradual incline that lasted 3 miles. I saw this incline on the elevation map and was haunted by it for 4 months. But the day before the race my fears were put to rest when we drove the hill. In a car it is barely noticeable. However, running it… it is noticeable. I would rather have had a steep hill that went straight up but was relatively short than to have this gradual bad boy last for 3 fricken miles. I just didn’t enjoy any part of that hill. The hill was actually part of a freeway, the 163. It should have been a really cool experience because the scenery was great and we were running on a freeway. How many people get to experience that? Instead it was the start of what would break both my body and my spirit. AND, the other kick-me-when-I’m-down joy of running the 163 was the grade that the road was on. The road was sloped left and/or right and we were never running on a flat service. Actually a large portion of the entire race was sloped and that really hurts the body. I was hurting from that instantly and could tell I would be sore after the race too.
During this stretch of the race, I just really felt like crap. Nothing physically was wrong (except for two blisters, a side ache, chafing, sore hip flexors, a bit of shin splints and bad knees) but overall my body was starting to protest and shut down. I was so fatigued and was just plain shutting down to the point where I had to talk myself into continuing to run. I had talk myself into getting to mile 10. Can you believe that? MILE 10!!!! WTF?!?!! I can run 10 miles in my sleep. And now, when I needed to be able to run it, I couldn’t. I didn’t want to run any longer. At one point when I saw an ambulance in front of me (part of the medical team) I seriously considered fake fainting!! That was a 100% viable option to me at that point. I would have rather have been carted off in an ambulance than continue running. I was willing myself to “fall”, “faint” and “drop”. “Fall Marla, fall… just drop” was now my new mantra. I really haven’t talked about mantras much this blog, but trust me, this is not a motivating mantra!! But the ambulance passed and Fake Fainting was out of the picture. So, now what you may ask? Well, Fake Peeing was my next thought. And actually Fake Peeing was a viable option about every mile or so when I spotted the porta potties line. My thought process was, if I pretended I had to pee, I could stop, pick a LONG line and just wait. This would provide me with much needed rest. THEN, what thrilled me even more was the thought of actually being able to sit down in the porta pottie. I so desperately needed to sit down at this point. After the fact, I told Brian that I wanted to sit down in the porta potty and he said “you wouldn’t have sat down”. And I said, “YES, I WOULD HAVE SAT DOWN”. That should give you some indication of just how bad things were at this point. I would have rather sat down in a nasty-ass porta potty that continue to run.
But continue to run I did.
I got to mile 10. But I didn’t feel any better. I thought I would have some sort of sense of relief but I didn’t. Instead I had to talk myself into getting to my 11 and then mile 12.
Speaking of mile 12. Jolene had said that her and Bob would be at mile 12 so I had my eyes open for them. Who I spotted at mile 12 wasn’t Jolene and it wasn’t Bob. It was a surprise appearance by Team 4, a team I didn’t even know existed… Team Carol. Carol had flown into the region to visit a friend and the two of them came to the marathon on race day. They had a sign and everything. I remember looking and going “hey there’s Carol”. Then I immediately followed that up w/ “Carol’s not here. Boy that chick looks like Carol”. And that was immediately followed up with “HEY THAT”S CAROL”. What an awesome surprise that was and I can’t believe everyone kept it a secret. Any other race and the fact that Carol showed up at mile 12 would have given us many miles of distraction. However, I was having such a poor race, the distraction lasted about a hundred yards. Then it was back to figuring out if I should Fake Faint or Fake Pee.
The next couple of miles went past slowly and I don’t remember a lot about the course or these miles. Actually I don’t remember much about any of the miles, scenery, course, etc. Later in the week when we’d drive past part of the course, my hubby had to inform me that we ran on that road or this road because I had no clue. I was so mentally out of it.
Mile 14 brought a bonus appearance by Team Two. I thought Stosh and Sarah were going to the finish line after mile 6 so it was a great treat to see them again. About 50 or 100 yards from Team Two was Team Three, Ted and Jamie. It was also a nice treat to see them because I kinda half expected them to sleep through the marathon. So the fact that they were up and at ’em, was a nice surprise.
Mile 17 brought out Team One and Jolene and Bob were sporting some rocking posters. They were funny. But I don’t think I reacted as I should have if I was having a good run. I made a mental note to tell Jolene how much I loved the posters even if I didn’t show it. It was also at mile 17 that I mouthed to Jolene that I wasn’t doing well. I wanted to give someone a warning that things weren’t good so they’d know why I was sucking so badly. If anyone was paying attention to how far apart the text messages saying what mile we were at were coming, they’d realize that each mile was taking longer and longer.
Up to this point I just thought I was having a bad “start” and that the marathon would some how still turn around. I kept thinking that it was going to get better and I was going to feel better. Some time shortly after mile 17 I realized it wasn’t going to turn around. I realized I hit the wall, I hit it early and I hit it hard. I remember thinking to myself “huh, so this is what the wall feels like”. And let me tell you for those lucky enough to never have felt the wall… it sucks. It sucks bad! Every ounce of my body wanted to stop running. I had to talk myself into each step. I remember telling myself “you know how to run, even kids can run, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Your body knows how to run and if I can keep from mentally quitting, my body won’t quit either.” But all this time I really knew it wasn’t my body that was giving out, it was my mind. I was so out of it. Jolene and Bob audibled on race day… and normally that’s frawned upon because everyone knows you don’t audible on game day (just ask Brian M. what happened in 2007) but I was so, so happy they did. Bob used his Bo Duke driving skills and because of the homework he did studying the course and road closures before the race was able to get Jolene to a few more spots on the course (in my mind he actually drove through the front yards of the rich and famous and people jumped out of the way as he bounced over curbs, side swiped a police car or two all the while turning corners on two wheels) and for a little extra support . I needed every bit of support I could get. I went from thinking “I’m just having a bad race and it will turn around” to thinking “I may not finish”.
That thought scared the shit out of me. I kept thinking about what would happen if I didnt’ finish the race. I couldn’t even contemplate that thought. Which meant, I HAD TO FINISH. Just about this time is when Brian broke out his “secret weapon”. The one thing guaranteed to make me finish that race. With about 2 miles left to go Brian said “just a few miles to grind out for Jack… you can do it”. I didn’t know if I wanted to kill Brian for pulling out the Jack card or if I wanted to cry. But I knew if there was only a slight sign of life left in me… I was going to use all of it to cross that finish line.
And where the hell was the finish line? That question really pissed me off. I needed to see the finish line. I needed to know exactly how much farther I had to run. Without knowing where the end was, you can’t mentally prepare for it and I needed every little trick I could get my hands on (like spotting the finish line) to cross the line. Unfortunately the finish line was on a military recruiting depot and because of security and the layout of the course, we didn’t see the finish line until we were maybe 50 or 75 yards from the end. This sucked. Especially considering both mine and Brian’s Garmin’s showed we had already reached the 26.2 distance. We were running long. And trust me… when I reached 26.2 I had every intention of being done running. I wanted to just stop right then and there and show them my 26.2 and demand they move the finish line to accomodate me and while you’re at it… bring me my damn medal.
We crossed the finish line and I was absolutely mentally and physcially exhausted. After crossing the finish line I gave Brian a big hug. I walked a few feet and promptly had another breathing/asthma attack. That took me completely off guard. I was done running! WTF? Why now. It lasted for awhile, Brian said it lasted longer than the first attack I had. All I was thinking “seriously… this too?” Thank god it didn’t happen while I was running.
Walking away from the finish line I was already hobbling. I had a hard time walking because I was in pain from head to toe. This was new. I don’t normally hurt until much later. This was not a good sign. But I could care less how I felt. I was never so happy to be done running. I’ve never had such a horrible experience. Not even doing the Urban Climb. Yes, I had 90 more flights to climb when I hit the wall at the Sears Tower but in reality I knew it would be over in 30 minutes. But for the marathon when I actually had to start talking to myself to keep going it was so early in the race that it wasn’t 30 minutes I had to suffer through, it was another FOUR HOURS!! This is the biggest mental test of will and determination I’ve ever had dealt with and I never want to do it again. I don’t deal well with mental tests! Give me multiple choice anytime! After the race I had sworn off marathons. I said, never again. Never again will I sacrifice so much for something that can turn out so horribly (for no other reason, that it was just not my day and I was having a bad run) wrong. It’s not worth it. HOWEVER, I’ve had some time to think and reconsider. Now I’m realizing that if I did it again, it couldn’t possibly get any worse. And besides if I swear off marathons, Bob won’t have a chance to captain his own team! Speaking of Teams… here’s a shout out to all of the Teams. The ones that made their way to San Diego and those that couldn’t make it. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT MEANT TO ME AND BRIAN FOR ALL OF THE SUPPORT. NO IDEA. I can’t even put it in words. Just know that if this were the Oscars and if I had won an award, I would thank you all in my acceptance speech. Now you can’t sneeze at a primetime shout out like that.
But since I’m not about to win an Oscar or any award for my performance… I’ve decided to create my own marathon awards. I’ll call it “Marla’s Marathon Merits” (snappy, don’t ya think).
And the winners are:
- Coach of the Year goes to Jolene. This isn’t her first rodeo and she did a great job coaching the crew and teams while simultaneaously multi-tasking (Jolene, that reference is for you only, enjoy!!) and trying to keep me from vomiting from nerves. The coach did awesome shirts, posters and was gracious to give us a place to stay the night before the race. While a few short years ago she did not consider running a spectator sport but since then she has not only embraced it but has converted many other non-marathon watching people into true spectators too. She often sacrifices herself for the good of the end result, just like any good coach. And best yet, she helps make all this shit fun!
- Rookie of the Year award goes to… drum roll please. And the winner is Bob! Not only did he study the course making it possible for him and Jolene to get all over the race course, but he analyzed the trolley system so my friends could get around too. And when I say he analyzed the course, etc. he didn’t just take a quick glance at it and say “yeah, I think we can do this”. NO, he actually drove the course, printed out maps for everyone along with trolley schedules, configured per mile times based on my projected pace so everyone would know when to expect us and bound this information, put it in a zippered folder along w/ pens and cell phones numbers. This is some detailed, analytical and anal shit that makes me proud to have him as part of the Rock the Route Crew. Next marathon, Bob gets to captain his own team. Hell, Bob can Captain whatever he wants. Bob Rocks! (For all rock fans out there… did ya catch the Bob Rock reference?!)
- Nicest surprise: That award goes to Carol. I can not believe with the timing of this race and everything she has going on that she took the time to surprise us in San Diego. I was shocked to see her on the course and it’s already become one of those “things” that I first tell people about when talking about the marathon. Above and beyond… definitely!
- “Really you’re going to come out for the race?” award goes to: Sarah and Stosh… dear lord these two always go the extra mile. Coming out to California to cheer us on was something that was so exciting to me. But of course that’s not all they did. Not only has Sarah endlessly listed to me obsess and worry about the race but we got a great pre-race gift AND they video taped the whole thing too. So I’ll actually be able to see the race through someone elses eyes. Lord knows my eyes weren’t seeing to clearly by the end.
- Most crammed into 48 hours award goes to: Ted and Jamie. They flew in, had dinner, watched the race, went to the zoo and flew out again. But thanks for being there. Loved it.
- Best “almost” flew out at the last minute award goes to Nicole and Mark: To hear that, as late as Thursday, Nicole was still checking flights to see if she could make it out for the marathon, gave me chills. And the round of beers at the Padre game curtesy of the Wafle family was the best damn round of beers I had in a long time.
- Most creative pre and post race goes to: Ty and Jill. Seriously… Spam tatoos!?!?! Enough said!! That fricken rocked. Not to mention the spam bracelets and the spam shot glasses. The 26.2 beverages were once again a hit. So if we do another marathon… 26.2 ounces of pot, perhaps? That’s something worth crossing the finish line for.
- Never forgot to ask about the marathon award goes to: This award is actually given out to so many people that constantly asked about the marathon and some even sounded interested and sincere. Todd/Julie, Sue, Dad, Brian’s parents ,co-workers and other Green Bay runners. I noticed and remembered everytime you asked and cared. Thank you!
And just like the Oscars, that save the big and most important award for last… the award for “I Couldn’t Have Done It With Out You” award goes to… my husband. I can’t even begin to write all of the ways he made this possible. I couldn’t even run around the block without his help. And now look… I’ve done two marathons. He’s been there with me through bad weather and through bad moods. Hot weather and hot tempers. Doubts, fears, injuries and bathroom breaks and all the time he’s ran with me stride for stride. We’ve had more than our share of fights while running together but we’ve had more laughs that fights. Each training run he helped get me to the finish. And on May 31st, knowing Brian was running side by side with me helped me once again get to the finish. So, unlike Jennifer Aniston who forgot to thank Brad Pitt (who some say was a sign that the end of their marriage was near) when she gave her acceptance speech… I’m thanking my husband for being my running partner!! Love you! (And that’s about as sentimental as I’ll get again… at least until I run another marathon. Hell, I wasn’t that sentimental at our own wedding!)
So that’ the short, or not so short, version of the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon. Thanks for taking the journey with me. And here’s hoping next time my world wide audience reaches a dozen people!
Until next time… gotta run.