Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Oops, it's (half) Marathon Wednesday

I know I missed Marathon Monday this week and I promise I'll get back to the story where I left off last week. But today I am going to skip ahead to tell another story in my marathon training saga. A long story. This past weekend I ran a half marathon at the Nike Women's Marathon (NWM) in San Francisco which was my second half marathon. It was an incredible experience, both the race and the process it took to get there.

The NWM is a huge race (25,000 runners) with a huge reputation for a beautiful course, San Francsico hills, and Tiffany's & Co finisher's necklaces handed out by fireman dressed in tuxedos. As big as it is, it can take some work to enter the race. For many of the spots, there's a lottery held early in the year. And I'll be honest, I didn't know this race existed when the lottery occurred. But as I learned more about running, I learned about more races and this one popped up.

At first, I was far too intimidated by the thought of San Francisco hills to even entertain the thought of running it. But as I heard more and more people talk, it sounded like the fun far outweighed the hills. So when I learned of a second chance lottery offered by Safeway, I entered. I figured it would be a good training run for the CIM and I could get a Tiffany's necklace. Seemed like a win/win. My friend Paula was also very intrigued by the race and the Tiffany's necklace, so we both entered and then waited..... And then Paula won! Hooray! But not me. And as happy as I was for Paula, I did still shed a few tears of disappointment for my loss. Apparently, I really wanted to run that 13.1 miles in San Francisco. I had come a long way as a runner.

I did my best to move forward, believing that it just wasn't my year to run the NWM. However, I quickly stumbled across another contest that changed my mind. Somersault Snacks Co. was holding a contest. For those that don't know, Somersault snacks are yummy little "crunchy nuggets baked with sunflower seeds and whole grains." A healthy, nut-free snack that I had appreciated for several years since my youngest has a peanut allergy. As one of the sponsors for the NWM, the Somersault company was holding their own contest for several spots in the NWM and on their running team. To win you had to write a running mantra in the form "Run___, Run___, Run___" and explain its significance in less than 50 words. It seemed like it was meant for me, between my new found love of running and my newly awakened desire to write. So I came up with a running mantra and worked hard to explain it in 50 words:
Run Strong:
I run for good health and strength. I started just last year with the Couch-to-5K program.

Run Brave:
Running has given me the courage to redefine myself and what's possible.

Run Inspired:
I run on inspiration. Running gives me time to think and sharing my experiences allows me to inspire others, which I love!
So I bravely submitted my entry. I felt strangely confident, feeling like this contest was made for me and my amazing year. But I waited and waited, yet heard nothing. I kept checking my email, thinking I'd read that winners would be notified by email at a certain time. But no email. My confidence started to waiver and I started to convince myself that maybe this wasn't my year for the NWM. And then I did a double check on Somersault's Facebook page and there it was! My name was listed under a post about contest winners! I did win! I was thrilled and so proud! I had stuck my neck out and shared my writing to win something and that brave step was rewarded. Yay!

Winning the Somersaults contest was incredible. Not only did it provide paid entry into either the NWM half or full marathon (which would allow me to run the half marathon with my friend Paula), but also a spot in Team Somersaults Run Club. I was invited to several team workouts, I received a special care package filled with Somersault goodies and a special Nike team shirt for race day, and there were special race day privileges that helped my family enjoy the experience with me.

Due to the distance it was hard to make it to the team workouts, but I did manage to make it to the first workout, an intro to CrossFit in Sausalito. Just that workout alone turned out to be a great opportunity. By attending it, I continued to honor my mantra with bravery. I drove 100 miles from home, alone, to try a completely foreign workout (that introduced me to the torture of Burpees) and meet some of the other team members. Having enjoyed that experience, I had made plans to attend another team workout at the end of September, but just days before I managed to injure my ankle.

This setback certainly frightened me, with the Nike half marathon just a few short weeks away (and CIM not too far behind), but I was determined to run the NWM no matter what. I had fought hard to get into the race and I was going to fight hard to complete it. So those weeks leading up to the race, I cut back on my running hoping to give myself time to heal. It was nerve-racking to reduce my miles, but it was pretty much impossible to run without a limp, shuffling a bit like Igor. In my determination and desperation as an injured athlete, I tried various different techniques to help speed up recovery like ibuprofen, cryotherapy, KT tape, icing, a removable cast, etc. And you know what? My ankle slowly started to feel better. Never 100% but so much better! I was able to start running more easily, in some pain, just this last week leading up to the race. Yay!

Race weekend arrived and I was both excited and nervous. My last long run,12 miles, had been three weeks ago when I injured my ankle. That was also the last time my legs had run any hills. And I was about to run 13.1 miles in San Francisco. Yikes! But I reminded myself I wasn't doing this for a PR (runner speak for a personal record), but rather for the experience to run in this amazing race with my friend Paula on a beautiful course ending with Tiffany's necklaces and tuxedo clad fireman. So this past Saturday, we headed up to San Francisco for the experience of a lifetime and the NWM did not disappoint.

25,000 runners brought together by Nike and other sponsors to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Absolutely incredible. The number of people was simply amazing both on Saturday at the Expotique and on race day. Just to give you an idea of the numbers, once the race officially began it took me and Paula 30 minutes just to cross the start line. And we weren't even at the end. Crazy! Amazing!

The race was a blast! I kept telling Paula "I know it's early, but this is fun." I would then wait, expecting the fun to eventually end, but I was honestly filled with joy from start to finish. That doesn't mean it was easy. It was tiring and my ankle did hurt the entire time (as well as few other places), but nothing was ever unbearable. The hills were definitely challenging, but never so much that I was miserable. After a rough couple weeks training, I actually felt good and strong. And I was just happy to be running. Everything else was icing on the cake. The weather was mild, the course was beautiful, and I was with my good friend Paula. We got to see our families at the Somersaults cheer station at mile 4.5, allowing us to grab some water and loads of hugs. It was perfect. I was on top of the world for the entire 13.1 miles, even when it felt like I was literally climbing there. I am a race-day, adrenaline junky.

Paula and I completed the course in roughly 2-1/2 hours which was an incredible accomplishment considering the hills of San Francisco, my bum ankle, and Paula had a bum knee. Once we crossed the finish, we were greeted by Tiffany's boxes on silver platers held by the tuxedo-clad fireman as promised. We once again found ourselves squeezed together with the massive sea of people we had just run with, making it challenging to stretch our tired muscles and find our families. In fact, it took over 30 minutes to connect with our families at the finish (cell phone reception was poor and the crowd was huge). But when we did reunite, no one really complained. We were just happy to be together. I am so very grateful for this experience and the fact I was able to share it with family and friends. I ran brave, I ran strong, and I most definitely ran inspired!


Kelly Warren said...

Great story! And two and a half hours is a great time for a half marathon! Congrats! I did a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society sponsored marathon in Alaska 15 years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Those days really stick with you. I'm so glad you had a great day!

Laura @ Mommy run fast said...

Congrats on your half! Sounds like such a fun race, other than all those hills. :)