November 5, 2008

Race Report - Nike Women’s Marathon - 10/19/08

I’m going to try and be as specific as I can with this report, because there were a couple of race reports from last year that really helped me prepare, so hopefully this will help future NWM runners! Grab yourself a beverage, sit back and get comfortable - this is longest race report ever!


I first learned about the Nike Marathon back in February from an article at Runner’s World – Marathons You Should Do In 2008. I did some online research - finding some race reports and reading reviews at Marathon Guide. It sounded fantastic, so I tried to get into the half through the lottery, but wasn’t chosen. Not one to be defeated, I knew I could participate through Team in Training, so I contacted them and asked to be put on their mailing list. I went to an informational session in April, and signed up – for the FULL MARATHON. No, I don’t know why I checked that box – I guess I figured if I was going to try to raise $3895 it would be better advertising to tell people I was going for 26.2. I am so happy to say I raised $7682 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Thanks to my wonderful friends and family for all of their support!

Race Morning

I woke up around 2:50 am and didn’t really go back to sleep. We had the alarm set for 4:00 am, so when it went off I got up and had a bagel. My coffee arrived around 4:20 – very important! We left the hotel around 5:15 and headed to the Palace to meet Julie & Kellie. It was pretty chilly out but I wasn’t cold at all even though I just had on my singlet. Note: The Team in Training singlet has to be the most horrible piece of clothing ever produced. It’s way too short and even though I had an XL tummy roll #1 was showing too much. Not happy. Horrible photos.

After meeting them at their hotel we walked over to the corner of Post Street where the early start had just begun, so we saw some walkers/runners pass us by. It didn’t really seem like there were very many – maybe a few hundred. We headed over to Geary Street where we were going to line up.

Now, at the Expo there were pace bracelets that you picked up in order to seed yourself. The options were:

6:30 – 8:59
9:00 – 9:59
10:00 – 11:59
12;00 – 14:59
15:00 – 16:00+

I had read that last year there were a lot of walkers at the beginning of the race, so even though I would do some walking eventually, it wouldn’t be right at the beginning. I picked up the 10:00 – 11:59 pace bracelet. I would recommend for future NWM RUNNERS – even if you aren’t that fast, take the pace bracelet for 6:30 – 8:59. I could not believe the number of walkers we had to get around. It was pretty annoying, and tiresome.

The first mile went by really quickly as we headed to The Embarcadero. At that point Julie & Kellie said they needed to go to the bathroom. The lines before the race were ridiculous – Kellie waited in line for something like 20 minutes and didn’t get to go. Just a note about the porta potties – the lines were crazy long during the first half of the race. I needed to go about 8 or 9 miles in, but knowing I was pushing the time limit to reach mile 18 ¾ I didn’t want to take the time to wait in a long line. After the split from the half-marathoners there were a ton of porta potties in Golden Gate park and no lines, so that’s where I stopped.

I decided to keep on going without Julie & Kellie because I knew they would eventually catch up with me. It took longer than I thought – I think it was almost to mile 7 before they found me. We took a photo with the GG Bridge in the background, had some water and I ate a protein bar. I had been running about 1.5 hours at this point. After walking for a bit we started running again, and that’s when they were gone. I just couldn't keep up with them.
A lot of this is a blur now. The bad hills were between miles 6 – 9. I remember an awesome downhill stretch after mile 10. Golden Gate Park wasn’t that bad, but miles 11-15 are a fairly steady climb. Something to not forget! This was the part that killed my legs.

There was the split for the half marathoners, and I saw the Mile 14 marker, but still had to go into the park and get to the turnaround point. I saw Kellie and Julie as they were on their way back from there. I know I was pretty much exhausted at this point. My legs were killing me, but I kept going. I did a lot of walking. My friend Stacey had said she would try to meet me at mile 15, so I kept moving and finally got there. I didn’t see her. There was an aid station, so I took a few minutes to sit down at the First Aid area because I needed to pull off some tape that had shifted on my little toe. I got my sock and shoe back on and started moving again.

Mile 16 was where the half marathoners joined the full course again, and then broke off to the finish. That’s when I heard Stacey yell “ANNNNNDDDDRRREEEAA”. I was so happy to see her – I gave her a hug, and really thought that’s all that there would be. I’m not sure how she got around the barrier – but she started walking with me, and then I saw Jerel on the other side of the road. He had on his sweatshirt and also my hoodie. It was freezing – the wind was whipping off the Pacific Ocean.

He walked with us for a few minutes, but since he was holding stuff for Julie & Kellie I was worried they would be finished and looking for him so he headed back to the finish. Stacey, on the other hand, stayed with me for until the end. I could not believe it. If it wasn't for her, I would not have finished. I would have headed for the finish at 18 3/4. I owe her BIG TIME!

So, this was where the hard part really started. The Great Highway is a piece of crap. I don’t know how to describe the road. The asphalt is mixed with some sort of rock/gravel crap, and let me tell you, my tired and aching feet could feel every pebble.

I don’t think I ran very much at all from mile 16 – 18 ¾. I used the bathroom again around mile 17. There were some people behind me, but no one was really passing me. As we approached mile 18 ¾ (30 km) one of the volunteers told us about the choice we could make – turn around and head to the finish without crossing the 30 km mat. I heard her say we had until 2:30 pm to cross the finish line and receive our Tiffany necklace. This was about 12:15 pm, so I had about 7.5 miles to go. I knew I wasn’t going to make without running some more. I didn't even hesitate as I crossed the 30 km mat.

We headed around Lake Merced – which I didn’t think was all that bad, but it’s probably because I wasn’t trying to get around anyone. They had the right lane of the road closed off for runners, and I can see how it would get pretty tight if there were a lot of people bunched in together. Again, most of this is a blur. The aid station at mile 21 was already closed, and the chocolate mile was packed up but they still gave Stacey some.

It was around Mile 22 that a TNT volunteer joined us. She asked if I had passed any other TNT runners recently. Not that I had any idea, so I said no. Well, she stayed and walked with us. Now, she was very nice, but I so wasn’t feeling perky and chatty. She started saying something about me being the last TNT runner and how loud the cheering would be for me. Well, thanks but no thanks. We started running again, so we got away from her. She said she wasn’t a runner – she was a walking coach. I did quite a bit of running after we got back on the Great Highway and passed several TNTers.

By the time we got to mile 24 they were starting to take down the mile markers. They waited until I passed at Mile 24, but Miles 25 and 26 were already gone when I got there. Luckily they were marked in chalk on the ground so I was able to know where I was!

Around this point I started passing a large group of TNT coaches, and a TNT sweeper wearing angel wings. Now, I’m probably one of the most open huggy kissy people you’re ever going to meet. This woman proceeded to put her arm around my shoulders and hug me close to her. Holy fucking crap lady – get your damn hands off of me. I’m covered in salty sweat and I know I stink, my legs are aching, my lower back hurts and by God my trapezius muscles are aching too. Stacey said the woman had probably never run a full marathon before, because she would have known that I really wouldn’t want to be touched at that point of the race!

I started running again at Mile 25.5 and kept running to the finish line. At Mile 26 Stacey headed back behind the barriers, and a couple of TNT coaches came over from the finish line. They ran toward the finish with me, and I heard the announcer say something about “here comes Andrea, there’s 2.5 minutes left before we close down, will she be the last finisher?” One of the TNT guys sort of pushed me toward the finish – it actually helped me go a little faster. I ran through a bunch of TNT people and crossed that damn finish line at 2:27:55.

I barely remember one of the tuxedo guys handing me the Tiffany box, I stopped and one of the volunteers cut the timing chip off my shoe. Jerel took this photo of me. Stacey was there, and then suddenly Julie & Kellie were there too. I was so confused and tired, and really was feeling a little nauseous. I had actually started not feeling very good around mile 24. I knew I wanted to get my finisher’s t shirt, so I headed over to the tent, where everything was all packed up. Seriously – tumbleweeds were about all that was left! The girls were telling me there were only size smalls left, but if I got one I could go to Niketown the next day and trade it in for a bigger size. So, we were standing there and one of the volunteers came from out of nowhere and gave me an XL. I couldn’t believe it. Of course – it’s still too small for me. I mean, it fits, but its way too tight to wear in public. Tummy roll #1 you know.

We walked over to the TNT tent where I had to check in, and I got my 26.2 pin. I grabbed a PB&J sandwich and a peanut butter cookie. Jerel found me a chair so I could sit and eat, and he found me a bottle of water. I sat there for a little while – Stacey had to go, I remember hugging her, and Kellie and Julie had to take the shuttle bus back to Union Square. I felt like I had so much to say – I wanted to give details about what I had been doing, feeling, over the last 7 hours. Our TNT coordinator Caroline came over to see me, and she said she took a good photo of me headed toward the finish line. I remember telling her some of what had happened, but exhaustion was taking over and I needed to get back to the hotel.

Jerel and I had to walk what seemed like forever to get to the TNT bus – I was barely moving, and was starting to get cold. We got on the bus about 3:15 pm and didn’t get back to the hotel until 4:00. That sucked. There were a couple of other hotel stops before they got to ours. The hardest part was trying to get down the stairs of the bus!

I was happy to get my shoes and clothes off – I ended up with a really odd blister on my left big toe. I didn’t even feel it forming. I took an ice bath, then a nice hot shower. We ordered room service for dinner, which was some of the best food ever! I had lobster bisque, cheeseburger and fries and a big piece of chocolate cake for dessert.

I had trouble getting comfortable, but I think we were both asleep by 9:00 pm. When I fell asleep I remember thinking I would never do this again – but when I woke up on Monday morning, and could still walk once I started moving – I knew I would do another marathon.

It took me about 3 days before my legs didn’t hurt anymore – which I don’t think is too bad at all.

It’s now over 2 weeks later, and I am still basking in the glory of finishing the marathon. I wear my finisher’s necklace and get compliments on it all the time.(after getting a longer chain from DeScenzas – 16” is just too short – felt like I was being choked).

Yes, I am proud that I finished, but depending on who I’m talking to, feel embarrassed when I tell them it took me 7:11:20 (official time). Yes, I wish I had finished in 6.5 hours, but now I have a goal. I need to lose some more weight (about 50 lbs), which can only help me be a better runner.

What’s next? I have quite a few small races scheduled, including the Route 66 and Disney’s Princess Half Marathons. As for the next full – May 3, 2009!!