Operation RAM: Mission Accomplished

Okay, okay, okay! So many of you have been bugging me to write this post, so here we go. It’s going to be all about my actual race (I’ll write more about our San Francisco adventures later). It’s going to be long. It’s going to be really fun to write… so enjoy 🙂

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Sunday morning, July 27th, our alarms went off at 3:45am. Bill had graciously agreed to drop Katie and I off at the starting line, so after grabbing the gear bag and equipment I needed (and had laid out the night before), we were off. Katie had a projected time of 3:30 while I was hoping to finish in 4:30. Because of this difference, she was slated to start in Wave 2 at 5:32am and I was assigned Wave 6 at 6:12am. I had decided the night before that I would rather hop in Wave 5 if at all possible. I felt bad for starting to much later than Katie and didn’t want everyone waiting around for me, and Wave 6 was for 4:30-4:45 goal times so I could in theory be one of the faster runners. I’m better at letting everyone else go ahead of me at the start so I don’t get too excited. Being in Wave 5 would allow me to start ten minutes earlier and it was for 4:15-4:29 goal times, so I could hang back and be okay with that.

race 1

We got to the starting area by 4:45 and dropped off Katie’s gear bag. Then we both went to the bathroom and I walked with her to her corral. We hugged and wished each other luck, knowing the next time we saw each other it would be as marathoners. I won’t lie, as I walked away I teared up a little bit. Not necessarily for myself, but for Katie. For those of you who don’t know, we met 14 years ago when I was a junior and she was a freshman in high school. I was the team manager for the cross country team and she was our young star. I watched her both struggle and succeed in running events through high school and college, even driving over to William and Mary for her first college race. She really is the little sister I’ve never had and I was so, so proud of her that morning. I think a little part of me was sad that I wouldn’t get to see her actually run, or finish, but I knew Bill would be cheering loud enough for the both of us. I had an extra 30 minutes before I needed to sneak into corral 5, so I dropped my gear bag and went to the bathroom again. I hadn’t finished a long run in a while without stopping to go the bathroom and I really wanted to give myself the best chance of doing that on Sunday.

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Getting into Wave 5 was easy, so I texted Bill to let him know that and then focused on my race. When the horn [finally] sounded, I stuck to my plan and hung back, letting my wave get ahead of me. Just to remind you all, in case you haven’t been tracking my Operation: Run A Marathon posts, my goal was to break 4 hours and 30 minutes, which meant that I needed to maintain a 10:20/mile pace. Through the first two miles, I was at a 10:06/mile pace. Not great that early in the race, but at least I hadn’t gone out too fast! As we continued along the piers and into the marina in the SF Bay, I picked up my pace a bit. It helped that I saw Bill with Billy and Cara, the co-founders of Hope for Young Adults with Cancer. I was so excited to see friendly faces and to see that they had found each other and would be cheering us on together all morning.

race 3

I was literally just enjoying my run at that point. I knew around mile 5.5, there would be a fairly steep uphill to get onto the Golden Gate Bridge. And I knew that the bridge itself had the potential to be quite windy and was a sloping uphill and then downhill… then repeat as we came back across. Heading up that first “major” hill, I was swinging my arms like it was my job. I have never driven my arms like I did on that hill and I was flying! Going over the bridge ended up being more than okay. Wind was not a factor at all. I was thrilled to be able to see over the edge and watch the sun rise over Alcatraz. There were tons of runners going both directions, but for the most part people were respectful when passing. There were also construction workers throughout the bridge giving out high-fives and shouting encouragement, which was awesome. I think they were more there to supervise safety, but they were taking pictures for people and just having fun.

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Coming off the bridge we had a (surprise) uphill and then a HUGE downhill into the subdivisions of San Francisco. I love downhills and feel like I run them well, but I did see a pacer trip and fall which reminded me to keep my head in the race and stay focused. My pace by this point, almost 12 miles in, was down to 9:45/mile which I was really happy about. I also knew that I would be seeing our cheering squad again sometime soon, before the half-way mark. I was anxious to hear how Katie was doing and I was feeling good myself so I figured it would be a good time to pass them 🙂 Sure enough, just after the first half marathoners split off, there Bill, Billy, and Cara were! They told me Katie was doing okay and I knew they needed to get back to the finish to catch her. Sidenote: for those of you in the SF area or looking for a fun, scenic, well-organized race, I would absolutely recommend the first half marathon course here in San Francisco.

race 2

The next part of the course, miles 13-17, I knew would be tough for me. There were rolling hills throughout Golden Gate Park, we didn’t have any half marathoners running with us (first half had finished and we hadn’t looped around to the second half start yet), there weren’t many aid stations or entertainment venues, and there were fewer spectators. My saving grace was that the sun was still hiding and we were in the shade. My speed and energy plummet when the sun comes out and the heat goes up, so I knew that the longer it stayed overcast, the better I would be. Also, the second half marathon waves were starting here and I kept being passed by groups of faster athletes. I thought this would be more annoying, but in reality it reminded me that I could keep going and that even though they were faster, I was stronger and doing double their workload for the day. I got through the rest of this section without too much difficulty and headed out of Golden Gate Park. At mile 19, there was one last steep uphill, but there were tons of people cheering us on and I did fine!

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Unfortunately, as we turned the corner onto the streets of San Francisco the sun came out. And the shade was minimal for the rest of the race. I told myself that now was the time that the race would transition from a physical race to a mental race. My longest training run thus far was 20 miles (up and over a mountain!) so once I crossed the 20 mile mark I knew that every step I took I was going further than I’d gone before. I also realized that Katie should be done by this time, which motivated me to keep moving to see her! My legs were doing alright, obviously they were tired, but I didn’t have any real pain anywhere. My quads were tired on downhills and I could feel my blister on my big right toe, but there wasn’t pain. Yay! The last few miles were along the boardwalk back by the bay. At mile 24 (ish) there was a HUGE curb that we had to step up on. That was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do in that moment, but I pulled it off. I also assessed whether I thought I could push any harder to finish up and quickly determined that no, no I could not. I also knew that I would finish and I would be okay… but that didn’t make the sun shine any less or the time pass any faster. But again, I knew I would do it and I was excited to get there.

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Crossing under the Bay Bridge (illuminated in the first shot in this post), I knew I had a mere 0.2 miles to go and I knew I was going to be under my goal of 4:30. There were so many people lining the finishers shoot that I didn’t even bother looking for BCBK, I just ran. The only slight disappointment of this moment was that I knew the photographers had missed me because of people flanking either side of me just ahead. But luckily, Billy got a shot of me from the sidelines. After crossing the line and getting my sweet medal, I was thirsty and I didn’t want my shoes on. The San Francisco Marathon did an excellent with photos and start/finish line organization. They did a terrible job with post-race cold liquids. The choice was warm boxed water (aka you just tasted cardboard) or cold coconut water (which is disgusting always). I found the crew at the end of the shoot and Bill snuck into the medical tent to steal me a cold regular water. What an angel! I also learned that Katie had finish in 3:45 and hadn’t felt awesome the last 10 miles, but she was well on her way to recovering by the time I got there. I was so proud of her and was happy that she was happy. We headed out of the shoot and I got my gear bag while munching on a delicious blueberry muffin. Then I took my race shoes off and put my flips on, which is kind of like my fat lady singing at the end of a race.

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I had finished in 4:21:21 and was SO happy about it! This worked out to be 9:58/mile pace which was super exciting to see.  Oh, and a few more stats for those of you who are curious: I finished 2477 out of 6580 marathoners Sunday morning. I was 582 out of 2293 females and 145 out of 459 females ages 25-29.  I kinda thought I would cry post-race, just overcome with accomplishment or relief for it being over… but I didn’t. I think that was because I was tired and drained, but I wasn’t running on fumes. I hadn’t pushed TOO far. I’d pushed just far enough. And I’d prepared physically, mentally, and nutritionally for this race for six months. I am thrilled with my performance and how I did in this race. A lot of that credit should go to Andrea at H2O Nutrition who prepped me with nutritional tips and strategies along the way. She’s the reason my legs weren’t complete jello afterwards and why I was able to finish the race with my insides flipping or giving out on me. I’m proud of myself for sticking with the meal and workout plans and while I wasn’t perfect, I was close enough for race day. I’m grateful for everyone who was there to support me and for all of you out there who have been tracking my progress and who donated to Hope… I could not have made it to the finish line without each and every one of you.

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There y’all have it. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed running it! And now this leaves us with the question that’s on everyone’s mind: Will I run another marathon? Well… let’s cross that [Golden Gate] bridge when we get there 😉

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Liz @ ourbusybee(s)
    Jul 31, 2014 @ 16:44:27

    Woohoo!! Great job!! Smart decision going into Wave 5 instead of 6! That is my biggest “what if” from MCM bc we got stuck behind a slower group of people and could not pass even if we wanted! Yay for you!! When is the next one!? 😉

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  2. Raymond Oliver
    Jul 31, 2014 @ 21:16:35

    Grandaughter, Congrats- how fantastic an accomplishment. Loved reading about your race. What fun for you and Katie. Thanks for sharing with us. Blessings, G -Dad & G -Mom O

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    Reply

  3. Debbie Jacobus
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 13:26:59

    Wow Congrats Karen , quite an accomplishment.

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    Reply

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