Last weekend I ran my first marathon since becoming a mom. This had been a goal of mine since I had miniKEG. I had planned on running the LA Marathon last year but it forecasts in the 80s and being 14ish weeks pregnant caused me to decide not to run it and run a local half marathon instead. So it had been since Boston 2015 that I had run a marathon. But wanting to run a marathon and actually deciding on one and registering are very different things. I had considered running one in the spring, then I thought about the SF Marathon, where I earned my first BQ, but I finally decided on Santa Rosa. I knew it could be warm, but the course is fairly flat, I like the area, and they give you a wine. Once I got Connie to register for it too, it was a no brainer (fun fact, it was marathon #7 for both of us!).
Training had gone pretty well. I had joined Arete’s Oakland chapter earlier in the summer and had logged lots of miles with my go-to running buddy Connie as well as the rest of this great team. (Everyone should be so lucky as to have such an awesome group!) There were messy/slower workouts (thanks a lot Alameda geese and wind) but my long runs had all gone well and I felt healthy the whole training cycle. (To be honest I definitely enjoy marathon training more than the race, I like the long runs and mileage and the reason to eat lots! 😉 ). And the 12 weeks flew by – I couldn’t believe race weekend got here so quickly!
The race weekend was a moms getaway. Erin, Connie, and I left our kiddos with the dads and headed up to the expo Saturday afternoon. It was already warm – and it was supposed to be even warmer race day. Thankfully we would all be long done running before temps hit the high of 100º.
Because of the heat and just our feelings about expos in general, we were in and out pretty quickly. We said hello to some friends and chatted with the leader of the pacers (Erin was pacing the 3:33 group). We picked up our wine and filled our water bottles and after sweating what seemed a ridiculous amount we were headed to dinner. We opted for sushi where I’m fairly sure we concerned the waitress as four fairly skinny people ordered an insane amount of food. Then back to the hotel to try to get some sleep.
At the hotel Erin read the race director’s post on Facebook about the heat for race day – promises of extra aid stations, kiddie pools with cold water, and misting stations. I looked forward to those misting stations and kiddie pools the whole race… they were not to be found. Connie braided Erin and my hair, helping her to use up some nervous energy and secure our hair for race day. I wish we had photographed this – oh well. Anyway, we were all laying down around 8:30/9pm. Apparently each of us woke up several times but I never saw anyone else when I was up so thankfully we were pretty quiet in our poor sleep.
At about 3:15am we work up – well after our alarms started going off. One of my least favorite parts of marathons is the force feeding of breakfast at some insanely early hour when I am still full from the previous night’s large dinner. Time seemed to go by slowly and then very quickly as we scrambled to get dressed and head to the start line.
We got to the race pretty early, Erin needed to be there an hour early for pacer responsibilities. That was fine with Connie and me. Plenty of time to use the still-clean port-o-potties and get in a little warm up. Up until we got to the start area, I had not really felt nervous about the race. I had a lofty goal of a big PR but also was really ok with a BQ and/or just finishing. I remember the day before saying to Erin I would be thrilled with a 3:35 (about 8 minutes slower than my current PR). But the morning of the race? I was a disaster. I started to doubt I could actually run all 26.2 miles – it had been over two years since I did it last. I wasn’t worried about the heat – I was worried about the running. I watched Connie write mantras on her arm, Erin scramble for a water cup, and I just sat there shaking with race nerves.
And then it was time to get in the corrals… except it wasn’t. This was a bit of a hot mess. I don’t know what happened but they weren’t letting runners into the corral and the announcer was unhelpful – and being rude to the pacers. None of this helped the race nerves. I just wanted to be running. Finally we were in and after the national anthem, we were off. Thankfully that was the only hiccup I experienced – the rest of the race was well marked, with good volunteers, and lots of water stations.
The course had changed from when I ran the race back in 2013, starting and ending downtown instead of Julliard Park. I really liked it – I like running through downtown areas and I found starting there at 6:30am made it easier to see where you were instead of a fairly dark park and ending there was really nice – easy to find people and park. All good things here.
So back to the race. Before I get into the breakdown of the race, I want to start by saying that I don’t always hydrate super well – but because of the heat I took water at every aid station. Mostly these were just gulps and then throwing the water down my back or over my head, but I never felt dehydrated. I will definitely do this for every future distance race. Lesson here folks: drink water!
The first half of the race was pretty simple. The miles felt easy and if anything I was holding back because it was the beginning (and the first ~6-7 miles are downhill). But around mile 11 or 12 we started into the rolling hills and I just didn’t had the desire to pick it up on the downhills. I knew at mile 11 I didn’t want to push. Honestly I was already thinking about quitting at that point. Splits: 7:59, 8:30 (I have this as 1.1 miles, I think I hit my watch the half marathon marker because they were behind by about a tenth of a mile), 6:57 (because of the previous lap hit, this was short – only .9), 7:44, 7:47, 7:44, 7:52, 7:45, 7:43, 7:41, 7:51, 7:56, 8:04.
Then I entered my slogfest. I wanted to quit; I swore off future marathons. I was oddly emotional and just wanted to be home. I think I was looking for pains or aches to justify my attitude but there really wasn’t anything. I just kinda kept slogging through and it wasn’t until about mile 16 or 17 when I had less than 10 miles to go that I was committed to finishing. I had been a little behind the 3:23 pace group for the first half but then the 3:28 group passed me and I didn’t really care. I was just waiting to see Erin and the 3:33 group. Once I committed to finishing, I just told myself not to walk – and I never felt the real need to, my legs felt pretty good for the whole race. Splits: 8:12, 8:06, 7:58, 8:36, 8:14, 8:32, 8:27.
Then finally the last 10k. The race start and ends on a creek trail. Heading back has a slight uphill. It was warm, I was tired. It was fine. I passed a few people who had passed me earlier in the race and were then walking – that only made me think how tough of a day it was. I just wanted to be done. Around the last mile, a great gal running in Rabbit gear who had cheered me a little earlier had slowed down, so I encouraged her to go. She said let’s do this together and we ran together for about 3/4 of a mile and she took off to get the BQ she was aiming for. I had been waiting for Erin’s 3:33 group to catch me and they did just before the finish, maybe a half mile out. Splits: 8:31, 8:35, 8:40, 8:58, 9:02, 8:17, final .2 7:40 pace. I finished at 3:33:39 – just a tad faster than my SF BQ in 2014.
So many great friends texted me after – some had seen my training on Strava or just knew my goals – they said how great I had done even though I hadn’t reached my goal. But I was really ok with my time – proud of it even. Four years ago when I first ran this race, I had wanted a BQ so bad and it was another failed attempt. This year I was 10 minutes faster than that effort, ran my second best marathon time, BQed by almost 7 minutes (perk of getting older, ha!), and did it all post baby in the heat. I have nothing but gratitude for Sunday’s race. And yes, I’m starting to consider another marathon after all, of course. And I was so proud of how my great my friends had done – Erin brought those runners in under their goal and Connie broke the 3 hour barrier and took 2nd place for women! How could I possibly complain? I can’t! It was a great morning (and a rough evening as I think the heat during the day did a number on me, causing me to have a small fever).
The best part of the race is that rather than leaving me overanalyzing every piece, wondering where I could have fixed my strategy, I felt like I did what I could do race day. And I left the race knowing my other goals, mostly for other distances, were within reach. Sunday had been really challenging mentally and I got through it. That’s the hardest part. And one day, when she’s older, I can teach that lesson to the kiddo – that’s pretty cool in my book.