Well, the big event Sammie and I have been working so hard for has finally come and gone, the Nike Women’s Marathon. I’ve spent the last week recovering, rehydrating, and eating my face off, all while reveling in the fact that I completed my first ever half-marathon.
I’ve been reading other recaps over that ridiculous weekend, and while the majority of them are inspiring and filled with joy and elation, I think my experience was a little different.
This story may need to be told in three parts, so get your reading pants on, and join me on what I like to call How to Not Prepare for Your First Half-Marathon.
Scene 1- The ER in Oakland.
October 12th, Wednesday
I’d been feeling sick for a few days, and was fighting what I thought was a flu until I started experiencing stomach pains so intensely, I was doubled over unable to move in pain. My boyfriend and I realized I should probably get help immediately, so we drove to the ER in Oakland, which, truthfully, is already a hell of a place to visit, regardless of a medical emergency.
While we were waiting for the doctor to see me, I of course, start researching my symptoms which quickly lead me to believe I either have stomach cancer or a ulcer, and clearly only have a week to live.
Because of this, I am now banned from WebMD.
I’ll spare the gruesome details, but the easiest explanation for the pain was something trapped itself in my system, wanted to occupy my insides (see what I did there?), and use my intestines as a punching bag. We also discovered I was incredibly dehydrated, so my body sucked up the IV they gave me with a quickness.
This is five days before my first ever half-marathon.
Scene 2- Work.
I went to work the next day, running on roughly 3 hours of sleep, and the pain wasn’t getting any better. I was still unable to eat solid foods, so I drank broth, hot water, and generally hated my life.
This was now the Thursday before my race.
Scene 3- Home.
I stayed home, watching an SVU marathon, as the pain became much more manageable, and found myself stressing the fuck out over the fact that I had a half-marathon to run in the San Francisco hills in roughly 48 hours.
This was the Friday before my race.
Scene 1- Getting to San Francisco.
Two of my friends and I took BART over to the city Saturday so they could pick their packets up. They were letting me crash in their hotel, which was provided by Team in Training, but through a series of unfortunate events, their reservation had been canceled not once, but twice. After five hours of running between hotels, dodging Occupy SF protesters , and still not really feeling well, we finally checked into the Westin, threw our things down, and headed to the Inspiration Dinner.
Scene 2- The Inspiration Dinner.
I walked into the Inspiration Dinner knowing I wouldn’t be able to eat the pasta, as I’m allergic to wheat/gluten, so I settled for a banana. Keep in mind, in about 14 hours we would be running, and I was just beginning to reintroduce solid foods back into my diet after drinking broth and chugging ginger ale like an addict for three days. I knew this would be a disaster.
I asked my friends if we could find a place that served rice so I could carb up my own way, so we did, and I ate half a container of rice, drank a bottle of Gatorade and water, and tried to get a little sleep while mentally preparing myself to run 13.1 miles on a small amount of food.
Scene 1- Race morning.
4:30am- Alarms go off. What the fuck am I doing? I can’t eat. My stomach pain has turned to pure nerves, and I know while putting my TNT jersey on, that what originally was my 2:20 goal time, has turned into, “get across the finish line, and don’t pass out”.
5:40am- I walk over the Union Square. It’s humid, which worries me, but as nervous and uncertain as I am, I’m excited. My determination to just finish started to override my fear and my anxiety, and I told myself no matter how much pain you’re in, and no matter how you’ll mentally trick yourself into thinking this goal is unachievable, you are going to finish. Or die trying.
That’s a little dramatic, but you get the point.
6:00am- Team Driven meets at Union Square, and I realize I didn’t pee after drinking a liter of water and Gatorade. But the scene at Union Square was a madhouse, so I figured I would pee somewhere along the course. Coach Al gives an amazingly inspired speech, we take pictures, and the reality that I am running a goddamn half-marathon finally sets in.
6:40am- I line up with my fellow TNT peeps, and start shaking. I thought I was getting the hunger shakes, but realize I am genuinely terrified.
What the fuck am I doing???
This seemed like a great idea in March when I asked to join out of sheer anger that blood cancer had taken the life of my friend.
I didn’t think this out.
I can’t do this.
Maybe I should just turn around-
7:09am- Well, I’m running across the start, so here we go…
The rest of these times are an approximation, because I mentally blacked out for three hours. Time no longer mattered, the only purpose for my existence for 3:03 hours was crossing the finish line at Ocean Beach.
7:09am-8:09am- I think I can do this. I’m running slow, I feel okay, and my nerves have calmed down. I periodically run into friendly faces, and people are cheering and yelling. Now I remember why I’m doing this.
8:10am-??????- Fucking hills.
All I see are hills. Miles and miles of hills, and inclines that never existed in San Francisco before this very moment, even though I’ve driven, walked, and drunkenly stumbled over these hills hundreds of times. I’m cursing these hills, running (barely) over them as diligently as I can. All the while, I see runners stopping to take pictures in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, smiling and laughing, while I’m mentally and physically spent, panting and cursing my body for failing me.
Finally I reach the Fort Mason Hill and decide to walk.
I was devastated.
I’mNotSure:30-??????:30- Everything hurts. I’m so hungry.
I know I was running, there are videos and pictures that prove it, but I was lost in pain shooting from my knees up to my hips that I was sure had turned into cement. I was shaking, miserable, but so determined to finish.
Am I SERIOUSLY running by a restaurant right now???
God, I want eggs. I think I can stomach eggs?
Why does every movement hurt?
9:????-9:30- I start seeing honorees running past me. These people are blood cancer survivors, and they are running, smiling, and not complaining, while I am a pathetic pile of slobbering, whimpering mess.
I need to get my shit together.
So what if I need to walk more of this than anticipated? So what if my knees feel like they are going to fall off my body? I’m over halfway done, and at this point, I need to make the most of what I can.
I put myself here- I trained for months, and I decided to run this knowing I was by no means at my full health.
So, I force a smile on my face as I keep climbing hills, and carefully trot down so as not to injure my already destroyed knees and quads.
9:31am- I search my brain to think of every distraction I can to deter myself from focusing on how much pain I’m in. Then it hits me- multiplication!
I start with 1x1.
Well, that’s 1.
This is getting me nowhere.
2x3=4- No, that’s not correct,
2x3=12…. That doesn’t seem right either.
2x3=8- You know what, let me just focus on that bagel that’s in my bag at the finish line.
9:40- I have roughly less than 2.9 miles to go, and I’m at a water stop where I see Erin Findley, her amazing dad, and her equally amazing aunt. They look strong, happy, and determined, so I zombie crawled myself over to them. The bits and pieces of a conversation that happened between the four of us are still fuzzy in my mind, but I force myself to try to keep up with them until my knees hurt.
I made it maybe 50 yards, and start walking again.
9:41- Out of the sea of runners, who do I hear?
Coach Al who has encouraged, and sometimes discouraged, me over these last four months, and I have never been so happy, yet so scared to see him.
Happy because Coach Al has become a semi-mentor to me, whether he knows it or not, and scared because the last thing I want is to be pulled off this course when I have 2.1 miles left.
2.1 miles, something I can run with so much ease on a regular day, that seems like a lifetime at this point, but those 2.1 miles is what stands between me, and my goal, and as God as my witness, those 2.1 little pieces of shit will not get the best of me.
I start tearing up.
He sees me.
He runs up to me, throws his arm around me and asks me how I’m doing.
The only thing I can sputter out is, “My knees hurt.”
He pulls me off the course, gives me a quick pep talk, rubs some special athlete freeze things on my knees, and sends me on my way.
I feel invigorated. I can do this.
2.1 miles, 2.1 miles…
10:02- I see the finish line. I hear screaming. I see the ocean.
Fuck it, I’m sprinting.
10:03- I cross the finish line for my first ever half-marathon, and immediately stop, bend over, and force myself to breathe. My legs are screaming, my knees are sobbing, and I’m searching for a familiar face anywhere.
Apparently I looked so horrible I was asked several times if I needed a medic. I couldn’t mentally process what exactly what was happening, or what I had just done, I could only think of how I wanted to stretch and sit. It also finally hits me that I hadn’t peed.
10:03-onward- I get my Tiffany’s necklace from a SF fireman, grab my finisher’s shirt, and sit down. I search for anyone I know, end up running into a teammate who is on her way home, and finally rest in a corner, stretching and looking at my necklace.
After an hour I finally see a Team Tibi teammate, followed by my amazing friends who got up so early to support Team Tibi and myself, along with a couple of my TNT teammates, sprinkled in 40,000 people at Ocean Beach.
All in all, it was a weird, crazy, ridiculous half-marathon. Finishing in 3:03 with little to no solid foods, dehydration, and underdeveloped running muscles doesn’t seem too bad in retrospect, especially on that insane SF course.
Truthfully, I did all of this for Team Tibi, and I’m thrilled I was able to run with Colleen, Angela, and Becca, in honor of our dear friend who’s life was taken due blood cancer.
I now have a PR I get to shatter next year in New York, and hopefully even more to come after that.
So, I thank you, Nike, for kicking my ass, but making me also feel like a BAMF, even when I whimpered, cursed, and screamed at the hills.
And most importantly, thank you Team in Training team!
You chicks are hardcore- especially Sammie who ran her first ever full marathon in 4:38, and I don’t think I could have finished without seeing your smiling faces along the course, while I was fighting off every urge to stop, sit down, and throw a tantrum.
That’s definitely some shit we saw while running.