Dear Adoring Fans,
I can’t believe it is already September and I haven’t posted my race report from my marathon back in June (aside: every time I type the word “marathon” my fingers automatically add a terminal ‘g’, so it says “marathong.” What’s that about?)
Where was I?
Oh, yes. The marathon. I ran it!
The marathon coincided with a meeting I had for work, also in San Diego, so it worked out perfectly. I drove out with my co-workers, participated in the meeting, had a day to do some sightseeing, and then met up with my team the following day. My meeting was at the San Diego Zoo, and we got this amazing behind-the-scenes tour of the bird exhibits, which was kind of realizing a lifelong dream of mine (no joke, when I was in elementary and middle school I spent hours and hours paging through a coffee table book about the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. My dad got me a computer program that took you on a virtual tour of the zoo and I’d sit there entranced in front of the computer, reading about all of the animals.)
On the day between my meeting and meeting up with the rest of my team Christopher and I went on a nice hike at Torrey Pines State Park, visited the Birch Aquarium, and spent a little bit of time just enjoying the shoreline scenery and seeing the San Diego sights. He had to fly back to Tucson before my race, unfortunately, but we made the most of our time before he had to leave.
On to the race. Although this was my sixth marathon, I hadn’t run one since 2008, so in many ways I was feeling like it was my first one. I felt confident in my training, and was very hopeful that I’d be able to meet my goal of running the race in under 4 hours 15 minutes. That said, I was still nervous. The race expo was enormous and kind of overwhelming, and I was glad to be there a day early to avoid at least a bit of the crowd. I got my race bib, timing chip, and goody bag, along with a few other things at the expo, but mostly it was just so crowded all I wanted to do was leave.
One thing that was special about the race was that some of my family was able to be there. My uncle and his wife and one of my cousins, who live in the Bay Area, and my mum, who came down from Portland, OR, were all there, which was really nice. My mum came to the Inspiration Dinner the evening before the race. Her father is one of the people I run in memory of, as well as her brother, so it was meaningful to have her there with me.
Race day dawned bright and early. I met up with my teammates down in the hotel lobby. My training partner, Scott, was unfortunately injured and decided to just run the half, so I decided to try to run the race with a pace group. I really wanted to break the 4:15 barrier, and the closest pace group they had was aiming fro 4:10, so that is where I decided to run.
The shuttle dropped us off at least a half a mile downhill from the start, so the day began with an uphill walk in the dark. The start area was crowded, but my team found a spot to gather and wait for the sun to come up. The lines for the port-o-potties were long, so I began the standard drill–get in line, use the port-o-pot, get in line again.
The race started in Balboa Park, where we’d spent the previous day sightseeing, so everything felt at least a little bit familiar. The start was a little hectic–the lines for the bathrooms were so incredibly slow that the race started while I was still in line. I was in the 15th or 16th start wave, so I had a little bit of time once the initial gun went off, but I still ended up jogging to the start, and getting there just after my wave left. As a result, I also forgot to start my Garmin for the first mile or so. Alas.
I spent the first couple of miles just trying to gather my wit about me. The stressful start was not ideal, and I found myself running a bit fast. I didn’t want to burn out early, but I also wanted to find the 4:10 pace group, so I tried to run just slightly faster than my goal pace, hoping to catch up with them. Right around mile 4 I saw a man carrying a “4:10” sign on a stick, and a group of runners surrounding him who had “4:10” bibs on their back, just like me. Phew. I settled in for the long haul.
I’d never run with a pace group before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t know if my experience in San Diego was typical, but the guy leading us was fabulous. For starters, he ran the entire marathon holding a 4′ dowel rod with a sign on top of it. He didn’t just run the pace that we needed, but also coached us all along, got the crowd to cheer for us, and just generally made the whole experience fun. He’d check the time, tell us how we were doing in terms of the goal, tell us to shake out our arms now and then, remind us take it easy on the uphill, and every so often he’d holler at the spectators and ask how 4:10 looked, which always resulted in lots of inspiring cheering. It was fantastic.
And I felt great. I was running strong, averaging about 9:30/mile.
Running through the park down towards the city was nice because it was the same route that I’d walked and driven over the past few days, so I knew what to expect. One of the biggest highlight from the first half of the race was running through Qualcomm Stadium. We could look down onto the field, and they had a special “congratulations” screen for us as we ran by. There was also someone playing the big organ next to the Japanese Gardens, which was a neat treat. The day was overcast and cool; there was some concern that it would be sunny and hot, but the weather was really pretty perfect for a long run.
Much of the first half of the race happens on the highways (they close ’em down for the race). The challenging thing about this is that the camber that makes water run off of the highways to improve the situation for cars in wet weather provides a challenging surface for runners. I’d heard from folks who had done the race in the back about major knee issues resulting from this, and had been warned to try to stay down by the shoulder, where it was flattest. Our pace group leader was great and made sure to remind us of this, and to keep the group down in this area. There were some hills during the first half, but nothing too major, and certainly nothing as steep as the hills in the Nike Women’s Marathon. I was still feeling really good.
5k time: 28:27
10k time: 56:46
Half marathon time: 2:03:59
We were right on schedule for a 4:10 race, with a nice cushion for those last miles, when things were bound to get rough.
From the downtown areas we headed north, towards Mission Bay. I was starting to get tired, and my calves felt a bit sore after the highway running, but I was still feeling pretty strong and proud of myself for hanging with the 4:10 group. I saw teammate Matt along the way, as well as our amazing TNT staff person Louanne cheering participants on, and that gave me a nice lift as the mileage went up.
As we got to Mission Bay, the running path started to narrow. We were running on a path that went around the bay, things started to bottleneck, and my pace group began to spread out just a little bit. That little bit kept extending and extending, and after speeding up several times and trying to weave around people in front of me in an effort to keep up, I found that I was tiring myself out. In spite of my best efforts, by mile 19 I had gotten separated from the group, who I could see in the distance, moving farther away. It was very disheartening.
Miles 20-22 were rough. I hadn’t walked at all up to this point, except briefly through water stops, but I walked an awful lot of mile 20. This was the point where I was asking myself, “Jennie, why do you keep doing this to yourself? The only reason you are here is because of YOU. Why, Jennie? WHY?” I forced myself to eat even though I was feeling queasy, drank more water, and by mile 22 was starting to feel better and started running again.
The course took us out and around Fiesta Island for miles 23-25. I had heard from my teammates that this was a desolate, awful part of the race–no one to cheer you on, nothing interesting to look at, etc., so I had kind of psyched myself out before it even began. The reality, for me, turned out to be that this was one of the most beautiful spots of the race–beautiful habitat, birds calling and flying everywhere, and just peaceful quiet surrounding everything. The runners were really spaced out, after the bottleneck of miles 18-21, and I felt like I could breath. I felt 100 times better at mile 24 than I did at mile 19.
As I finished the island loop, I could look ahead and see the finish line. Unfortunately it was still 2 miles away! Those were two awfully long miles, but I definitely had caught at least a little bit of a second wind. I knew I was really close to my 4:15 goal time, although due to my Garmin mishap at the start of the race, I wasn’t sure. At that point I just sort of put my head down and went for it.
The last 1/4-1/2 mile was lined with cheering fans, and that really helped me keep moving forward. I heard the announcer call my name, and then, suddenly, it was over. I had finished my 6th marathon.
Official time: 4 hours, 16 minutes, 8 seconds.
I hadn’t quite made my goal time, but it was still a personal record, so I was very happy about that, especially given how lousy I felt for miles 20-22.
I made my way through the chute, got a banana and some water, checked in at the TNT tent, and met up with my family. My uncle Rick had run half of the half marathon relay (Go Rick!), so we compared finishers medals and experiences. I hadn’t seen Rick, his wife, or my cousin Kate before the race (or in a number of years, for that matter), so it was especially neat to see them, and my mum, there at the finish line.
Physically I felt pretty okay. I was a little bit shaky on my feet, and my calves were definitely more sore than I’d expected them to be, but I was able to walk the long distance between the gear check and the TNT tent without too much of an issue.
After visiting with my family for a bit, we made plans to meet up in a few hours and I took the shuttle back to the hotel. On the shuttle I sat next to a woman who had been there to cheer on her daughter; we talked a bit, and it turned out she was a multiple myeloma survivor, and her name was Jan, just like my honored teammate Jan. It was a kind of strange coincidence, and it got me thinking about Jan, my Uncle Kenny, my friend Susan, and all of the many others whose names are on my race jersey. I may have been questioning my sanity around mile 21, but thinking about what all of my honorees have had to go through, well, suffice it to say that there are more marathons, century rides, and triathlons with TNT in my future.
Back at the hotel I took an ice bath and then a shower, and gently stretched and put my legs up a bit. My family came and picked me up and we all went to my other cousin’s house for dinner. I was really, really happy to find that my cousin’s wife had a foam roller, so I did a little bit of foam rolling, especially on my calves, which were beginning to feel more and more sore, and that really made a difference. My achilles tendons were feeling things the most, which I think was the unfortunate result of the cambered highway, but the rest of me was feeling reasonably good, with the exception of the usual blisters on my feet. I have come to accept the fact that as long as I am a distance runner, my second toenails will constantly be in a state of coming off or growing in (sorry for that visual, but it’s the truth).
The next day my teammates and I flew back to Tucson, another successful TNT event under our belts. So what’s next for me? I probably won’t be doing another TNT event in 2012, but stay tuned for 2013. This December I’ll be running the Ole Man River Half Marathon in New Orleans with my cousin, Chris, and am looking forward to that. Possible TNT events include the Arizona Distance Classic half marathon, here in Tucson in March, and the inaugural Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, D.C. in April. Watch this space!
There are a bunch of folks I’d like to especially thank, including Teresa and Rick, my amazing coaches; Louanne, our staff person and the heart and soul of Team Tucson; Matt S., who came out to San Diego on his own dime just to cheer his teammates on, even though he didn’t run this race; my Uncle Rick, who gamely laced up his running shoes and did a solid 8 miles without really training for it–he definitely deserved that finishers medal; my cousin Kate, my mom, and Sunnie, for making the trek down to cheer us on (and to Sunnie for taking most of these pictures!); and my training partner, Scott–although we were not able to run the race together, I wouldn’t have gotten to the start line without you!
Finally, I want to thank all of you who made donations to my fundraising for this event, or who sent encouraging messages.
Together we raised a fantastic $2410 to help find a cure for blood cancers. I have been fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fairly continuously since 2005, and many of you have supported me through every event. A simple “thank you” seems very inadequate, but I still say it. Thank you for your continued generosity, for your encouragement, and for your inspiration. Together we have raised about $20,000 since 2005 to help find a cure for blood cancers and make the lives of patients and their families better. Running a marathon is cool and all, but THAT is the truly impressive thing. I think it was Betty Reese who said, “If you think you’re too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.” That’s the truth. From a $5 donation to a $500 donation, every single dollar counts and together we are really making a difference. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.