Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nike Women's Marathon - Race Weekend and Race Report

For those of you that want the short version, go to Monday's update. The rest of you, grab a coffee or a coke (whatever will keep you awake) and prepare to be here a while. The following is my very long report of the weekend and the race, along with pictures.

Race weekend was finally here. Our flight left at 7:55 am Friday morning, so the alarm went off at 4:30. I got up, got ready, put the last minute items in my luggage, grabbed my muffins and headed out to meet a teammate I was taking to the airport. We took the new toll road to the airport, which was great. Got parked, checked in, went through security and met our other teammates at the gate. There were over 40 of us on the flight and the captain made an announcement welcoming us once we were in the air. That was kind of cool. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the in-flight movie, so I put on my headphones and enjoyed the show (even though I had already seen it).

When we landed, we were all starving. It was almost noon our time, even though it was only 10:00 California time. We caught the Team in Training shuttle to the hotel (the Hilton in Union Square) and tried to check in. I was staying with my friend Brandi who was also one of the coaches for the season, so we were in the executive tower. Our room wasn’t ready yet. We checked our bags at the desk, gathered a group of about 15-20 people and started walking toward the expo while looking for a place to eat. When we found Lori’s Dinner we all agreed that was as good as any place.
After a great lunch, we continued to the expo. This expo was different than most of the big race expos. At most of them, there are all kinds of vendors selling their stuff. You can get almost anything you want. Not here. This expo is put on by Nike and is catered to women. There aren’t any vendors selling things, but there were free massages (full body, chair and foot) and free manicures. After getting our bibs, timing chips and goodie bags we quickly hopped in line for the full body or chair massage. You didn’t get to pick. You got whichever one opened up first. I got lucky and got a full body. It was only about 15 minutes, but felt good anyway. When we were done there, we immediately got in line for the foot massage. Aaahhhh. I could get use to this.

From here, we headed across the street to NikeTown. NikeTown is a huge store and that is where all the race day merchandise was. Let’s just say they have a good bit of my money now. On the outside of NikeTown is a wall that has all of the runners name’s on it. I found my name and got a picture.
After NikeTown several of us decided to head down to Fisherman’s Wharf to sightsee a little and grab some dinner. We decided to eat at Bubba Gump. We had a great dinner and then strolled over to Pier 39 to listen to the sea lions. Then it was back to the hotel and to bed.

Saturday we woke up relatively early. Brandi had a coaches meeting at 8:00 and I met with the rest of the team to do a 20 minute run through the streets of San Francisco, being very careful to avoid those notorious hills. I heard one person while we were running say, “the race is tomorrow”. Duh! After running I took a shower and got dressed while waiting for Brandi. When she was done, we headed to Knuckles Sports bar with Brandy and Selene to watch some football and grab some lunch. We sat at a bar with 4 chairs and 4 TVs. Brandi (with an “i”) is an Oklahoma fan while Brandy with a “y” and Selene are University of Texas fans, so we had the folks at the bar put those two games on. Sadly for me, my Aggies were not on TV Saturday.

After the games we ventured back to Pier 39 for some quick souvenir shopping. My daughter collects snow globes so I found her one of those and got my son a shirt with sharks on front. It changes colors when it gets in the heat. We checked out the sea lions again now that we could see them. They are funny to watch.

Then Brandy and Selene bought a crape and it was time to head back. This time, we caught a cab. He took us though some of the hills of San Francisco. I tried to get pictures from the cab, but they don’t do the hills any justice.
After helping our staff person make some race day signs, it was time to get ready and head to the pasta party. Our team had ordered matching shirts so that we could wear them to the pasta party. They turned out nice and most of us had them on.

The pasta party was huge. When we walked in there were tons of staff people cheering for us all. We went through a balloon arch, down the stairs and turned the corner and there were still people cheering for us. I had experienced this during my first TNT event in San Diego so I knew it was coming, but some people were just plain overwhelmed by it all. I think there were around 8,000 people at the pasta party. 5,300 of them were TNT participants who had raised money. In all, over 18.5 million was raised for the LLS through this event. That’s a lot of money.

After carbo loading on our pasta, we headed back to the hotel for our “night before the race” meeting and to decorate our jerseys. The only problem is that the hotel kept kicking us out of the room or space where we stopped to meet. Finally we found a meeting room on the 6th floor and all crammed in there. We got last minute reminders for race day. When the meeting was over several of us went to a different spot to decorate our jerseys. We always put our name on the front and names of honored heroes on the back. Then it was bed time.

In this marathon, full marathoners who think they will not make the 6.5 hour cutoff can do an early start. We had a few people that wanted to do this and since Brandi (my roommate) was the coach, she needed to be up early to get them to the start by 5:30. So when she left the room at 4:45, I decided to get up and start getting ready myself. I got dressed, ate my race morning breakfast of oatmeal, made sure I had everything I needed and headed downstairs to meet the rest of the team at 6:00. We then made our way to the start line which was just a few blocks from the hotel. We checked our bags for after the race and waited for the start of the race.

We heard the national anthem and then the 10 second countdown to the race start. And then we stood there. For 10 minutes. We were so far back, we didn’t even budge for 10 minutes. And when we finally did cross the start line, almost 17 minutes had gone by. Thank goodness for chips.

When I crossed the start line I started jogging. I knew the first mile would be slow with so many people and that was fine by me. Better to start out slow and speed up later than to start out too fast. Since I just did a Half Ironman Triathlon two weeks ago, I didn’t really have a time goal for this race. I just wanted to finish. I figured if I finished in the 5 hour range I’d be ok. At each mile I hit my split button on my watch just to see where I was. I figured if I kept each mile around 11 minutes I’d be good. And I did that the first few miles.

The first few miles of the race are flat. We ran down through Fisherman’s Wharf and headed toward the Golden Gate Park. I stopped at one point and had another TNT coach take my picture with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. It was really pretty.

We had been warned that about mile 6 we would face a steep hill that continued for about a mile. Brandi had said she would be at the bottom of that hill to encourage us as we went up. I started looking for her and found her right before I started on the hill. She joined me for the first bit of the hill. My goal was to run all the way up that hill. I do hill training back home and no hill in San Francisco was going to get me. And I conquered that hill. It was steep, but not near as bad as I had imagined.

We got a little reprieve after the hill with some downhills but then headed right back up again. What I didn’t enjoy was that around mile 9 was an aid station right in the middle of the hill! Come on folks – put it at the bottom of the hill or the top of the hill, but not in the middle. It did help to see two of our staff folks right there cheering for us though. And as soon as we got to the top of that hill, we were rewarded. We started a long decent down the hill toward the ocean with an incredible view. From here we had an out-and-back that was also there area where the ½ and full marathoners split off. Mentally, I don’t like out-and-backs. When I’m going out, I’m always wishing I was on the “back” side. And then to see the split and know that some folks were almost done. That was tough mentally. But I kept going. I was still doing fine and enjoying the day. The weather was perfect. When we started it was probably in the high 40s or low 50s, but as the sun came up it warmed up and was probably in the 60s as we were running. It was just right for me.

I finally got to the Great Highway. This was another out-and-back of sorts. We would head out the Great Highway. At about mile 18.5 we would start around Lake Merced. This would take us for the next 4.5 miles. We had been warned that, while flat, this part of the race was boring and there was very little support on this part. Again, a mentally tough part of the race. Our warning was accurate and this is where I started walking. I’m a competitive person by nature, so part of me wanted to keep running, but I was also here to enjoy the race and not worry about my time. Since there wasn’t going to be much support in the way of water stations, I decided not to worry about it. I walked, then jogged, then walked some more. And it was very BORING. After an hour of going around that lake, I just wanted to be done with that part. And I knew once I was off the lake I would be almost done with the race.

Finally I could see the turn that would put me back on the Great Highway to the finish. And as I came around the corner I saw one of my teammates. I thought it was cool that she had finished her ½ marathon and come out to cheer on the rest of us. And then I remembered that she was doing the full. She was an early starter because she is a walker so I was confused about how she was already done. Well, she wasn’t. That’s just how she is. She had gotten to that point and just decided to stop and cheer for people for a while. That’s what it truly means to be part of the team. Jeffi is my hero!

Somewhere between mile 24 and 25 Brandi called to see where I was (yes, I run with my phone). She was at 25.5 running people in and said she would head back to find me. We passed our staff people at their cheer station again and walked a little more before Brandi said she was off to find other people. I could see the finish line, but I wasn’t ready to start running for the line yet. Then one of my mentees passed me. He had run Chicago, but his wife was doing this race and he was running her in to the finish line. I looked at my watch and my competitive side kicked in. I was close to 5 ½ hours and decided I wanted to come in under that. I started sprinting to the finish and crossed with an official time of 5:29:38. I just made it.

And the next thing I know, I’m standing next to lots of guys dressed in tuxedos with a tray of blue boxes. Not just any boxes. Tiffany boxes with my Tiffany finisher’s necklace in them. Two of the guys at once go to hand me the box. Which one do I take it from? I took the box from the guy closest to me. I had my necklace. Then I got the blue Tiffany bag to put it in. Then I got my mylar blanket and walked through the tent to get my finisher’s shirt. The next stop was the TNT tent to check in. Every TNT runner and walker has to check in so that TNT knows all participants are safe. They also had food, so I went down that line grabbing chips and a cookie.

And then I saw it. The line for stretching and massage. And I got right in line. The drinks were right next to the line, so I grabbed a coke and drank that while waiting. Then my phone rang. It was the other Brandy. I told her where I was and she came to meet me. We got stretched and massaged and then headed to baggage claim so I could get my change of shoes and sweats. I changed my shoes, but didn’t need the sweats yet. We sat on the sea wall and relaxed for a while. Our game plan was to wait for Brandi (who had to stay on the course until our last participant crossed the line) and then get in the ocean for a little bit.

When Brandi was done we walked down to the ocean. I HATE cold water, so I knew I wouldn’t be going in far, but I figured maybe up to my knees. When I stepped on the sand where the water had just been, I knew I was in trouble. The sand was cold! And then the current came up and covered my feet. They immediately went numb and started to hurt. I ran back to drier ground. I’m such a wimp. Brandi and Brandy (are you confused yet) however, went on in. They were joined by Rachel. They went out until the water was at their thighs and they stayed in for about 10 minutes. Brrrrr! I get cold just thinking about it.

The last shuttle bus was leaving the race site at 4:00 so at 3:30 we started heading to the shuttle. We caught it back to the hotel, showered and got ready for the victory party. The victory party is always fun and it’s always fun to see how everyone is walking (or not walking). Most people seemed to be doing very well. I remember after my first marathon I felt like I could barely walk. I recover faster after each one, but even our first timers were doing well.

After the victory party there was a small group of us who got a drink to toast our accomplishments. We shared some laughs and talked about future events we might do together. Friendships have been made. Great times have been had. But all good things must come to an end and it was time for bed.

We woke up early Monday to finish packing and catch the bus back to the airport for our flight home. Again, the captain announced that we were on the plane, but this time he congratulated us for having helped raise over 18.5 million for the LLS. The in-flight movie this time was License to Wed. Funny movie if you haven’t seen it. It was kind of sad to land and know that the season is over. We said our good byes with promises to get together for a reunion in a couple of weeks and to look at pictures. I dropped off my teammate and headed home where I was greeted by my kids asking “what are we doing for dinner?” That’s code in our house for “can we go eat at Casa Garcia?” So that’s just what we did. Mexican food always works well after a long weekend away.

I’m taking the week off from working out and will start back up with training next week – slowly. Brandi and I are doing the Disney marathon again in January and I may do AT&T again in February. We’ll see.

Overall, it was a very successful season and a great race. While my time was slower than normal, I’m ok with that. A half ironman and a marathon all in one month is a lot. The Nike Women’s Marathon caters to women and it is a great event. Part of me wants to do this event again next year, but there are also a lot of great events to do that I haven’t done yet. I’m assistant coach for the winter season and then will sign up in the spring to do the America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride (100 miles around Lake Tahoe) with TNT. After that, who knows!
Here is a link to the course and elevation profile
Race Day Splits were:
Mile 1: 11:11
Mile 2: 10:55
Mile 3: 11:18
Mile 4: 11:45
Mile 5: 11:20
Mile 6: 11:04
Mile 7: 12:10 (this was going up the hill)
Mile 8: 11:04
Miles 9 & 10: 23:51
Mile 11: 11:32
Mile 12: 11:06
Mile 13: 11:54
Mile 14: 12:01
Mile 15: 11:30
Mile 16: 12:00
Mile 17: 11:35
Mile 18: 13:17 (this is where I started walking)
Mile 19: 13:50
Mile 20: 13:40
Mile 21: 13:53
Mile 22: 14:48
Mile 23: 15:27
Mile 24: 15:10
Mile 25, 26 and .2: 38:04 (but I forgot to stop my watch as I crossed, so this isn't really accurate)

1 comment:

Grandma J said...

What a great post! I love all the details of the Nike Women's Marathon, especially since it's not something I will be doing in this lifetime. You chronicaled it so perfectly that I almost wanted to take a nap after reading it.
The best I can do is a mini walk like Light the Night. After the walk I just continued to the parking garage and headed north lol. I hated missing the testimonials and kudo stuff but it had been a long day with two baseball games and one football game earlier in the day.
I did have a surprise conversation with Dirk Dozier before the walk as I sat on a wall with my banner. I had no idea who he was until I finally asked him his name. What a great guy, and a perfect choice for Chairman.
You will love doing the Tahoe Century, Briana. I accompanied Andrew's family when his dad did his ride and it was a wonderful experience. Tahoe is one of my favorite place to vacation, you will love it.
Again, congratulations on your marathons and all you do towards the cure.