Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nike Women's Marathon 2009

I never imagined a race that had 20,000 women in it would be as hard as it was. I've run the Boston Marathon four times, and this was much harder than Boston. To say there were hills in this race is to grossly underestimate the severity of the hills. I swear to you, this race felt ALL uphill. And the points that weren't uphill were sharply downhill.

I really felt like I started conservatively. The first couple miles were in the city and downhill heading down to the piers. My splits were right around 8:00. The run along the piers was flat and easy and helped me to settle into my run. After the piers there is a left turn and a climb begins toward Lombard street, but it's only for a block. Then we cut over heading towards the Golden Gate Bridge. This is where the steep climbing begins. At mile 4 the run is on a trail that goes straight up and straight down. It's short and steep but nothing compared to what's coming up. Mile 7 is a LONG, one mile, steep hill up toward the Golden Gate Bridge, followed by a steep downhill, and then another build in miles 8 and 9. This is where I saw Dave and I knew it was going to be a long day. I told him the hills were relentless and that I was struggling to keep my splits in the 8:00s. Here's a video he shot. It was also really windy out on the course as you can hear from the video.

After mile 9 there is this long, sharp downhill that got us down to the beach area on the other side of the bridge. You run a long here for only, like, two miles where you can see the finish line. Then it's into Golden Gate Park where another climb begins. This one is not as steep but definitely long--like three mile long. In this park the half marathoners break off only to be reunited with the full marathoners right before their finish. For the marathoners we have a turn around in this park where you can see where you are. To my amazement, I'm doing better than I feel, but I also know there is a long way to go. I see Dave a couple times in this park and let him know that I'm struggling. Cardiovascularly, I felt great, but my legs just would not go.

Around mile 14 I start running with a girl who I run with for the next 3+ miles. I told her I was jealous of the half marathoners who were almost done with their race. She says to me, "don't look at the finish line when we pass it." I didn't. I tell her I'm struggling; that I thought the race was harder than anticipated. She says she is too. We say we'll get to mile 16 and see what happens. We get to 16 and then we shoot for mile 17. At 17, I had had enough. Right at the mile marker I stop to walk. She says,"NO! NO! NO! Run until the next water stop." I tell her I hate her but keep running until the next stop. She says, "You're going to pass me anyway because there is a hill up there that I'm going to throw up before going up it and then throw up again after going up it." I giggle. We get to the water stop. She stops to walk, I keep going. That was the last time we saw each other. I hope she didn't get sick on that hill.

I think I made it to 18 before I totally lost it. Once the half marathoners broke off, this race got really lonely and it continued to be a rough course. Pass the zoo, we turned into another park (which I can't remember the name of) and go around a serious of lakes/ponds. Again, climb up to the top of this park, and then come down the other side. Except this time there are NO spectators and there is traffic on the left. This was the longest point of the race. At one point I stopped, started to walk, and started to cry just as runners were coming the opposite way on their Sunday run. They yelled to me, "NO! NO! NO! You can do this!" I picked it up to a jog again but crying made it tough to breath and I had to tell myself that I had to get my head in the game.

I tried to do everything to keep myself entertained and take my mind off the horrible marathon I was having. I counted. I sang. I told myself that I would run 5 minutes and then take a 1 minute walk break. The miles began to get longer: mostly 10:00s but I think I even through in an 11:00 in there. Things were going on a downward spiral and fast. It seemed like forever before I was back on the Pacific Coast Highway and heading toward the finish line. Despite how horrible I felt the race was going, my time really wasn't reflecting the way I was feeling. Around two miles to go, an official tells me I'm #180. And he gave a number to the gentleman in front of me, so I was obviously placing higher than that. (I was surprised how many men ran this race.) A few people passed me after that as I continued to run and walk all the way to mile 25. In the last mile I saw Dave and Molly. Finally the finish came into view and I was done--3:49:XX. Not spectacular, but it was over. I got my necklace (cute), my finisher's shirt, some water and chocolate milk, and my mylar blanket. I found Dave and Molly, hit a port-a-john and then it was a long walk back to the car.

It's been a few hours now since the race and I have a few reflections. But, I'd like to wait to talk to coach and then save them for another post.

Marathon season has come to a close.


MrsCJ said...

I have heard this race is very challenging. You are such a strong runner, 3:49 with those infamous hills, you are an inspiration!


E.L.F. said...

Meredith, you had a strong run on a tough course. I don't know too many people who would do a marathon let alone a hilly one. Like I said, a day where Kara Goucher is 3rd is a day where you have a tough course. You finished this one in a good time and within the top 150 or so overall. THAT shows what a great runner you are. NOT your finish time. Sometimes the "time" is irrelevant to what we gave out there.

Sara Cox Landolt said...

I've been caught singing to myself on course. And counting and other games. Thanks for the photos & video - I'd love to check this race out in the future.

w.carmen said...

Hi Meredith! I had a few questions and seeing you've had tons of running experience, I'm hoping you could advise me? This post stuck out me to me the most being that I've ran the half 4 times. Anyways, I'm planning on qualifying for Boston this year. Any words of wisdom?