Okay, first things first, drop what you're doing and sign up for one of the North Face Endurance Series challenges because this race was seriously amazing. The story of my day is of no reflection of how wonderful this race was and I would TOTALLY do it again and have hopes to maybe come back to San Fran next year and do it.
If you're wondering the story of who I ran the race with, it will make you love the running community. While Bethany and I were running the Boston marathon, at mile 24, a girl ran up to us and was like "OMG I FOLLOW BOTH OF YOU!" and so we laughed, hugged and kept running together. We all know I was dying at that point of the race but she was the reason we kept a smile on and we crossed the finish line all holding hands. After running only two miles together, we became great friends, exchanged numbers and have been friends ever since. She lives in San Fran so it was only perfect that we stay with her to come and do this race! :) She has been the most perfect hostess and we are so lucky to have so many wonderful friends across the US. I'll talk about our trip and all there is to love about San Fran for tomorrow's blog, but today I thought I'd tell about race day.
Tanner and I have had bad jet lag but it's worked in our favor for getting up super early. I woke up at 4am race morning wide eyed, and we ate breakfast and left the house at 5:15 to run and catch the shuttle bus to the start line. The last bus left at 5:45, and we got to the race start at 6am. I will admit that this was somewhat awful because we had an hour to stand in the cold before the race started. It was wonderful however of North Face to have the standing heaters that we could all stand around and chat.
We were in wave 3 however the waves were very close together and right at around 7:10, we started. As I have stated, I was completely under trained for this event but knew that I would warm up, get going and be fine which I was. We knew we would walk the steep uphills and jog the other parts and make our way. After standing in the cold for an hour, everything was frozen so it took a while to get moving, but otherwise it was beautiful. The sun was rising over the Pacific and everyone was geeking out as we made our way into the mountains. It was funny how many cameras were out when that sun was coming up.
Starting at mile 2, STEEP elevation started (we did 3300ft of climb over the 15 miles). It was very weird to be walking at mile 2. I kinda wanted to jog but I knew that if I was about to run 30 miles, I had to conserve so I listened to the fact that everyone else was walking and walked. From mile 2-5, it was switching between jogging downhill and steep steep uphills. The elevation was INTENSE and there was no way we were running up this. We laughed later because Meredith said she looked over and I was like doing the push-my-knees-as-I-walk type walking up this incline, but you can imagine that we weren't really all that gassed because we weren't running. Haha!
Once we got to the 5 mile mark, I won't lie, I was in a bad place mentally. I was thinking how I wasn't even that tired but I just could not fathom running another 25 miles. I also was thinking how this was SO slow moving because of the elevation that I was almost bored. I like to run not walk so the walking was KILLING me. I kept telling myself to sink into it like I do every other run but all I could think about was how Tanner was alone in San Fran with nothing to do because I was running all day. I know he supports everything and he NEVER complained about me racing but these were just my honest thoughts. (Negative Nancy Saturday lol)
Meredith and I finally got in a groove and started talking about other things. We started discussing deep things in life because that's what always happens when you run with someone long enough and that's something that I really love about it. haha! It's like "We are in the mountains kind of alone. We might as well really get to know each other." Before I knew it, we were coming on the ten mile mark and I felt awesome. I couldn't believe we had made it that far so fast, and the weather was finally turning to sun and I was warming up finally.
We had a lull in conversation and for some reason, I again thought about how there were 20 miles left. I started thinking about my training. I thought how little I had trained for this event, how I get little niggles really easily, and how I wanted SO badly to get back from San Fran and start seriously training intensely for Myrtle Beach Marathon (March 4) for my next attempt at a PR. Getting a marathon PR is some of the hardest training and can really tax your body. I knew that if I ran 30 miles Saturday then I was going to have to rest for a full week to make sure that I came back safely. This is NOT to say you can't run the week after a long endurance event but I know how my body responds. EVERY single time I try to run the week after, I get something that keeps me out for a month. I didn't like the thought of that. It made me not want to put my body in that place. So, mentally, I was done at mile 10.
I turned to Meredith and said "If you were being 100% honest with me, what are your thoughts on finishing this race?" Part of me wanted her to say "WE CAN DO IT!" and the other part was praying she was in my state of mind. She was like "Girl, we could stop right now and I wouldn't care." I was so relieved. We decided in that moment that we weren't going to finish. We weren't injured. We weren't hurting or breathing hard. It was just a conscious decision.
We were whispering as we didn't want the others around us to hear. hahaha! We said we would get to the next aid station (which was actually the actual mile 10 mark) then see where the next aid station was. We knew mile 10 was a literal straight up climb. I told her I at least wanted to do a half marathon distance. At mile 10 they told us that it was 5 miles to the next aid station. I remember Mere grabbing my arm and saying "FIVE MILES!?" which is hilarious because we were so done that 5 miles up a mountain sounded like a really long distance.
However, that turned out to be some of the most beautiful moments. The course map makes it look like it's straight up but it's actually switch backs so we just did all the switch backs through the mountains and made our way to the top of this mountain for the most beautiful views of the ocean and the golden gate bridge. When we got to the top, we pulled to the side and told the race officials that we were dropping. We feel as if dropping was normal because they didn't ask questions or encourage us to keep going. Ha! It was just like "okay what's your number?"
At that point, we asked where to go because we were on top of a mountain. They told us to walk to the nearest ranger station and that we could have someone pick us up there. So, we ate some food and headed on our way. We called Tanner who was super shocked but also excited to come get us early. He texted me that he would have NEVER EVER believed I'd ever stop in a race, and I can't either really, but there's a first time for everything! :)
We made it to the ranger station and had to wait on Tanner for 45 minutes where we laughed about the fact that we should have kept running and we COULD.NOT.BELIEVE what we had just done. I imagine the emotions of someone who quits a job and when you leave, you feel exhilarated like you did something wrong but also freedom but also this weird "I kinda feel a lot of regret but I'm glad I did it anyway because it was a smart decision for today" emotion.
I knew I had to explain why I didn't finish and I felt this weird emotion of needing to explain myself and then I thought, "but why?" Why do I feel the need like this is such a bad thing? I made a decision for myself that was GOOD for me...really really good for me mentally and physically, so there is nothing to apologize or explain for. I got to know a friend on a deep level in the mountains, I got to run in a beautiful place with a beautiful sunrise, and clocked FIFTEEN MILES for the day. How amazing!!!
As we left the ranger station, Meredith took us to a look out to see the Golden Gate Bridge and as I was no longer running and walking through the mountains to this lookout with Tanner and as I'm standing there looking out at the vast ocean and the world thinking how I can not imagine not believing in a God that is SO much bigger than me, I knew I had made the right decision. I almost got emotional and told Meredith how amazing it was that we were able to complete fifteen miles when there are so many people who couldn't do that.
I am so thankful for my health and this journey and for those days that turn out way different than we intend for them too..
Today started training for Myrtle Beach Marathon. I will start with a 30 mile week this week increasing by 10% each week with a peak at 60 miles/week. It's exactly three months away and after such an awesome "long run" this weekend, I feel on top of the world to really start training. I had been in a funk and this weekend was JUST what I needed.