Wednesday, August 25, 2010

San Francisco Marathon - Part 2

In one of my running books it says that one of the most important things to remember, in preparing for race day, is to get a good night’s sleep. It notes immediately after that you probably will not be getting a good night’s sleep because of nerves, excitement and whatever else, so don’t worry about it too much – it happens to everyone.

My sleep is fitful and my dreams are erratic. Ireland, being chased by dogs, riding a trolley car, wandering around airports – a mish-mash of my experiences the past weeks and months. At two o’clock in the morning, I was awoke by a group of girls singing out on the street (incidentally, it was “California Gurls” by Snoop Dogg and Katy Perry. Not exactly what I wanted to be hearing and it’s forever imprinted on my memory now.)

Wakeup time came quickly and I gear up. Feeling strong, we walk toward the start. Slowly but surely we start to intersect others with the same destination. As we approach we see groups of hundreds stretching, slamming a muffin, or waiting for a porta-potty. I kiss Wife and get into the gate – there is definitely a cattle-like feeling to it.

The announcer’s shouts the start and, slowly but surely, the crowd piles through the starting gate. I try to recall words from various books and colleagues explaining that you need to conserve energy:

Run *your* race, not anyone else around you.

If you get to halfway and feel good, hold back; if you get to 15 miles and feel good; hold back; if you get to 18 miles and feel good, still hold back; when you get to 20 miles, you will be tired, then you can start to race.

The Boudin bakery smells fantastic and there are bakers watching us through the huge open windows. I look in and wave, a few bakers smile and wave back.

Familiar tourist attractions pass my peripheral vision : Pier 39, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the spot where the silver painted guy stands,  the place where I once saw a guy running a three-card-monte game. I am broken out of my reverie by my first hill – it’s a monster.

As the incline steepens, the crowd backs up and some start walking. My legs scream at me , “go! GO! We LOVE this!” and I turn up the speed. Unable to contain the adrenalin inside, I weave in and out of people, huge smile on my face and my lungs starting to burn for the first time of the morning. About 20 minutes later a woman is running beside me and asks, “How are you feeling?”

“Good! How are you doing? You ok?”

“Yeah, I am great, I was in that group of people you passed back on that hill!”

If I wasn’t already red from exertion, I might have blushed. “Yeah, I am sure I’ll be paying for that later.”

“Well, you are looking good! Keep it up!’, and she picks up the pace and leaves me behind.

My iPod mix grabs my attention as a song I purposefully threw in at the last minute begins : Global Deejays “San Francisco”, where the lyrics are simply a reciting of various city names and then a sample from the song “If you’re going to San Francisco”. I listen and think about all the places on the list I have been fortunate enough to visit.

Shortly after, I begin the run across the Golden Gate Bridge – which continues to be the leading suicide destination for bridge jumpers. I see the Crisis Hotline phone which has a sign that reads “There is hope. Make the call.” Underneath the sign, someone had written in Sharpie “Life is good!” and drew a smiley face.

The road is narrow and I try to keep my own pace without bumping into others. I hear someone shout and look up to see my friends that encouraged me to sign up for the race coming the opposite direction – I hold my hand out and they high-five me (I realize at this point that, despite the hills, there is no way I am going to catch and run with them.) There are maybe three miles ahead of me and have a faster pace, so I settle into my own head for the rest of the run.

Finishing the bridge, I wind my way through to Golden Gate Park. People holding signs become more abundant, Harley Davidson riders controlling traffic hold out their hands for high-fives, and, now that it’s past breakfast time, there are actually people wandering around wondering what is going on. I see a sign that appears hastily made that reads, “Holy !@#$, you’re running a marathon! Will you be my daddy?” and wonder what sort of issues would make someone write that. It made me chuckle out of confusion.

Golden Gate Park is the halfway point and the fatigue is taking affect – I am not cramping up but my pace is definitely slowing and people pass me steadily. Slamming down some energy gel, my focus turns to my music as I attempt to tune out the burning in my hamstrings.

1 comment:

Beth said...

GG Park was a beast!
We went back last weekend and ran the length of it both ways, took the kids through that neat tunnel...enjoyable w/o an extra 9 miles attached to each end!
Nice recap.