J and I were up by 4:30am to get ourselves ready for the big event! We were out of the hotel by 5am and decided to just walk the half mile or so to the race start. There's something fun about walking down the streets of a big city when it's still dark and knowing that all the other people you see walking the same direction are going to do the same challenging thing that you are doing.
We found the potties and took care of business before lining up with the Wave 7 group just in time.
We were supposed to start at 6:22, but an announcement told us it would be at 6:30. Then, they counted us down and said go. As always, it was anti-climatic because we just started walking forward. However, then we came to a stop. We had to stand around for a bit, and then they counted us down and said go again. I have no idea what that was all about. It was a little annoying because we were ready to get started.
We started out at a pretty conservative pace. I think we hit around 10:30 over the first mile or two, and I felt pretty comfortable with it. We ran along the Embarcadero and passed Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. I felt like the course was pretty flat along the first few miles, and it was fun seeing these parts of town during the early morning hours when there were zero tourists out and about.
I knew that we'd have to encounter some hills in order to get up to the Golden Gate Bridge, but it turned out that there was really only one climb. It was a steep one, no doubt, but I really wasn't feeling like the course was all that hilly so far.
It was exciting when we rounded a corner and saw the bridge off in the distance.
As we approached the bridge, I noticed this sign warning cars that there would be runners on the bridge... as if the thousands of runners wouldn't clue them in, haha.
It was pretty exciting getting to run across the bridge... all 1.7 miles of it! Then we turned around and came back across. I loved it! It really had the potential to be a big climb since bridges often are steep on either side, but it never really felt like we climbed much.
By the time we crossed the bridge, we had a solid 9 miles under our feet. There was a pretty big climb soon after, and we realized we could walk up it as fast as we were running. Fortunately, they had the foresight to put a water stop at the top of the hill.
One thing is for sure - for every uphill, there was a pretty awesome downhill. This picture shows one off - we flew down this baby!
We encountered some rolling hills, and while they got old really fast, I didn't really think they were terrible. I went into this expecting the hilliest of hilly courses, but I have to say that I didn't think it was any worse than what I run in Nashville. Granted, the race people could have made it far worse... I definitely saw worse hills around town. I think they've done a good job of routing it so that you really don't have a ton of bad hills.
We hit the half marathon mark shortly after entering Golden Gate Park. I was feeling tired, but I still felt pretty good. I enjoyed running through the park, but by about mile 16 I was tired of it and ready to be out. It felt like we were in there for ages.
We did see this cool building and gardens before leaving.
Miles 17 through 21 are a bit of a blur. I honestly can't recall what we saw or if there were hills or scenery. I think we were just running through city streets. I was starting to hurt, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to hang on to the pace we were keeping much longer.
I also knew that S and A would be at mile 21, so I kept pushing myself to hang on until we got to them so that the 4 of us could be together briefly. A had to catch a flight home, so I knew this would be the last time I'd see her.
Before long, we found them. We took a quick photo and gave hugs before heading on.
I didn't want to hold J back in any way, and she was totally rocking her first marathon! I definitely only did as well as I did because I had her helping push me along (whether she knew it or not), but it was time to send her on her way. I told her I'd find her at the finish, and I pulled out my ipod to keep me company for the last 5 miles.
I'm not going to lie - the last 5 miles were brutal. I kept telling myself it's only 5 miles and tried to forget about the first 21. I definitely slowed down my pace, and I took a little bit longer walk breaks at the water stops.
When I hit mile 25, I realized that if I kept it up, I'd finish it faster than 2 of my other marathons. Two others that I actually trained for. So I kind of got a second wind because I loved the idea of finishing and it being my third slowest as opposed to my slowest or second slowest. (My two that are slower are 4:56 and 5:12.)
I saw S again briefly at mile 26, and then I kicked it on in to the finish in 4:53:32. I was thrilled!
One awesome thing about this race is the food! I grabbed a couple of really yummy scones to devour immediately, and I piled up some bags of popcorn-type stuff and cookies. I hate how you never have anywhere to put the food, but I was glad they offered good stuff that I liked. Oh, and they were giving out Jamba Juice! Score!
J and I found each other and celebrated that we finished. She was a rock star and finished her first in 4:43!!! S found us, and we took some photos to express how we really felt.
We decided we were too cold to hang out much longer and began making our way to find a cab to the hotel. We cleaned up, put on our shirts and medals, and did a little more celebrating.
Oh, and we totally sported our new recovery socks we bought at the expo the day before.
We headed to Max's on the Square for some incredibly greasy and yummy food... and a well-deserved beer! We did need to replenish after all.
We ended up wandering around the mall for a bit to stretch the legs before going back to the hotel to rest. We hit up Chevy's for margs and mexican food for dinner, and we made a stop for some dessert at The Cheesecake Factory. We were pretty serious about celebrating with food! Plus, we were starving all the time!
The weekend went by way too quickly, and before I knew it I had to head home.
One thing is true though - the medals were awesome!
I love these girls, and I'm so glad that we got to reunite and have a fun weekend together. I'm also so glad I got to enjoy the experience of J's first marathon with her, and I'm glad to have another full under my belt. It's amazing to me that I did as well as I did when I didn't train all that well, which I think proves that distance running really is mental. I mean, I had been running some 16-milers, so I'm not saying I would run one with no training or whatever... but it's nice to know that I'm capable of pushing myself to the extreme a bit.
I'm still recovering from the race. I wasn't any more sore than I ever am after a marathon, and I am both hungry and sleepy all the time just like usual. It always takes a few days for that to pass.
I decided on Tuesday when I was grocery shopping to buy some flowers for myself. I feel really proud that I was able to go out there and do this, especially since I was feeling a little uncertain about how it would go.
All in all, I'm really glad that I did this. I do have to say that I was a little disappointed that there weren't more spectators. I guess I think of San Francisco as a big race, so I was a little surprised at how it felt like there were not a lot of people out watching. Then again, only about 5000 run the marathon, which is about how many run the Nashville marathon... and we're not known for having a lot of spectators for the second half.
I had fun, and it was definitely a great way to see the city!