I have struggled the past few days with how to share the half marathon experience with everyone.  There were highs & there were lows.  Also, I did not want the over arching theme to be my own malaise.  But how do you share every part and still have people understand it was what it was and that I don’t need a motivating pep talk?  As well as the morphing emotions the more removed I am from the event.

So, all the dirty details including my own mental tantrum…

The week prior to the race everyone was curious about my anxiety / excitement level.  I was not thinking about the race; I felt the best option was to deny the race was even taking place.  The night before the race I was still practicing denial and was told I looked unnaturally calm.  The morning of the race waiting in the lobby of the hotel, I was still hanging out in denial.  Maybe less denial & more avoidance.  I am going to employ this for all future races because it prevented my brain from over thinking every minute detail.

Union Square was a mess of 20,000+ runners & walkers.  Baggage check was akin to crazy mob scenes.  Runners ready to race do not always think clearly: ten buses to drop off bags and everyone was crushing toward the first bus, ignoring the others.  Total mad house.  Finally clear of the mob, the race set to begin, music and gps ready, I head slowly toward the start line.

GOAL #1: Start slow and do not get wrapped up in racing someone else’s race.  My friend took off as soon as she crossed the start line and I let her go.  Fur Elise on my ipod, I began to run through downtown San Francisco.  The road full of runners was not a concern (it usually bothers me to be so crowded) and I followed my plan.  Gold star for moi.

GOAL #2: Don’t let your brain get ahead of your body.  Part of my issue is over thinking in a race.  Any small thing could be the disastrous straw that broke the camels back.  Too far in my head and I may as well pack up.

Mile 1-3: There are songs on my playlist I don’t remember hearing during the race.  These were my gold star moments where I was running in the moment.  Running through the Embarcadero, seeing Fisherman’s Wharf and not realizing it was a lot more Disneyland-esque and covered more ground then what I visited a few years ago.  Ran past the In & Out Burger and decided “that’s where I’m having lunch today.”  (Didn’t happen.  I didn’t want to walk anywhere after the race – plus the chafed body parts didn’t want to move either.)   Ran the first hill – baby hill.  The second hill – a bit bigger.  But here is where I made my first mental mistake and why I will never pay attention to the course elevation again: I thought I was done with the hills.  The rest of the race would be smooth sailing.  Little did I know, those hills were nothing.

Mile 4-6:  Still running strong.  Glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge to keep me company.  Dancers along the course – totally awesome.  This is the view when you turned around.  It was an overwhelming moment: I started running downtown and here I was looking on downtown in the distance.

Mile 7-9:  This is also where “the hill” starts.  I ran past a group of drummers and then walked the hill.  I can give no perspective because it felt like I was walking that hill for hours.  Team in Training mentors, captains & managers were waiting at the top of the hill and I received a hug from our region manager (so needed).  On the downhill portion, I started to run but ran into a cramp in the arch of my right foot.  It hurt to push off, so I continued to walk.  Enter mental tantrum.  With each step, there was a running tirade in my head: how does anyone decide to run more than one half marathon?  How do people run a full?  Why is running so fun during training but races royally suck?  I’m NEVER doing this again.

Mile 10-11:  Exiting the Presidio Park: still walking through San Francisco neighborhoods, still with a nagging cramp in my arch.  Each time I saw the first aid station, I considered stopping – for potential blisters and for the arch cramp.  But each time, I walked past the aid station thinking I could push through to the next one & if the pain worsened, I would stop.  This is also where I found the 2nd hill.  Although the grade seemed reasonable, it went on for blocks and blocks.  The mental tantrum grew louder.  Add in my nagging disappointment.

Mile 12-13.1:  Each time a TNT coach walked with me during the course, they asked how I was feeling.  Each time my response, “I just want this to be over.”  The mental tantrum was louder now and I have conveniently forgotten most of it.  From the beginning of the season, I knew I would cry at the finish line.  I was so mad, I didn’t even think about the miles I had run/walked.  I was grateful it was over.  I picked up my finisher necklace, checked in at the TNT tent, ran into my teammates (who were all ecstatic – do you know how frustrating it is to be in a foul mood when everyone is cheerleader happy?) and picked up my lunch.  As my teammates cheered people into the finish, I grabbed the shuttle back to the hotel.

Sunday “pity party”: I know I am hard on myself.  I didn’t accomplish the three goals I set up (not mentioned above) before the race.  I was mad with my time.  I was mad that I had run 11 miles three weeks prior to the race and I couldn’t get past 6-7 on this course.  I was mad I didn’t run after walking up the 1st big hill.  There was a lot of disappointment too.  *This is where people insert the pep talk.  Sometimes I need the pity party.  Because usually this happens…

Monday:  As other people’s stories were shared, I realized I wasn’t the only one who struggled.  One of our hardcore runners said this was the second hardest course he had ever run.  Another teammate was found sitting at mile 16, tears streaming down her face.   Another teammate ran/walked with her to get her to the finish line and in the process was turned around to head toward the finish line, but meant she wouldn’t complete the full marathon.  Another teammate was the last to cross the finish line, seconds later, she would have been swept up and driven to the end.  Not that other’s struggles made me feel better but I did feel like I was not alone in the struggle.

Tuesday:  After the pity party, I am usually in fix-it mode.  How do I make this better for the next race?  What did I learn?  I realized each first race at a new distance, I have had a similar experience: the anger followed by a steel resolve.  My first races have been awful; my performance not up to my standards/expectations.  But as I kept working on it, the subsequent race performances were much improved.  Lessons learned may follow later – this is already too long!

There you have it: the leave nothing out race recap.  Last but not least… the as-flattering-as-it-gets race photos.

running across the finish line...(there is a smile - b/c I was so happy to be FINISHED!!)

steps past the finish line...