Thursday, October 15, 2009
As this race approached, my anxiety levels began to grow. Yes, I’ve experienced pre-race anxiety before, but not like this. I felt neither ready nor prepared. My body had been sluggish all week. My training schedule had been thrown out of whack with the trip to Reno to see my mom. Add to that the debacle of the OC Marathon (blister at mile 4) and I really wondered if I could do this. Yes there is something to be said for getting through 22 miles with a bleeding foot, but that race became an exercise in enduring just to get through it. I never got the sense of accomplishment in meeting a goal.
So, Saturday arrived and I gathered up the kids and headed for Long Beach. I had just gotten my race number, shirt and goody bag, when Jackie called and said they were just getting there. Within a few minutes we found each other, along with Mary, Janey and Denise and we all hung out together for a while as we meandered around the expo. Around 3 I headed out since I had some errands to still run before getting home. I had a good dinner with familiar foods: veggies, rice, chicken. I spent the rest of the night gathering up my gear, making sure I’d forget absolutely nothing. I probably overdid it, but took precautions with the extra stuff.
So, Sunday morning I was up at 4am. I got dressed, gathered up my gear and began nursing my watered down Gatorade as I got the stuff together and headed out the door. I was out by 5am, but apparently that wasn’t early enough. I hit traffic on the 710, about 2 miles before the Broadway off ramp. It took another hour for me to get to the parking lot where I had prepaid for parking (Civic lot 2 between Magnolia and Pacific) I now had less than an hour before my wave start time(wave 5 7:20) so I started eating my power bar as I walked to the race area. By now, the water/Gatorade was announcing its presence and I needed a bathroom. But, just like last year, the lines at the port-a-potties was insane – at least 20 deep for each- I decided to wait since it was now 6:50 and I still had to check my backpack. I found the baggage check, and there must have been over 100 people still trying to check their stuff. I got it in, and quickly headed into the started area. Wave 1 had already gone. I soon found the girls: Jackie, Janey, Mary, Denise, Tammy. We quickly got some pre-race pictures and before we knew it, we were moving forward and our wave was due to start. And off we went.
As we moved past the start line, I turned on my IPOD shuffle. Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” started and my anxiety levels subsided, now I felt like I was about to have a good race. As we’ve done in the previous two races (SF and Disneyland) Jackie and I stuck together early on. I had told her that this time she would probably finish ahead of me – she was better prepared. We were going at a comfortable pace at roughly 11 minutes per mile and we were targeting the 5:15 pacing times. We both were watching the bathrooms and port-a-potties for an opportunity where the lines weren’t too long. Of course all of them had long lines. Around mile 4 we spotted a bathroom with lines that weren’t too long, we went for it. It cost us about six minutes. Shortly after we got back on route, we spotted Mary, and as we were passing her she got a few pictures of us.
Jackie and I did what we’ve done during previous races: She got ahead of me, usually at the water station, and then I’d catch up after she’d take a walking break. Around 5 mile I spotted Tammy and passed her, and shortly afterwards, her husband Bob. Jackie was still in my sights up ahead and we continued on, as the course took us along the beach. It was along the beach part, around mile 8 that I spotted Cherri and Nick and passed them up too. Shortly afterwards, the course took us by the Belmont Pier and back on the streets again.
The half and full marathons split after the mile 10 marker and we heading up Livingston as the course took us to Marine Stadium. I still had Jackie in my sights, and occasionally caught up to her. We continued like that through Marine Stadium and onwards towards Cal State Long Beach. Around mile 16 I saw her step into one of the port-a-potties, and then passed her. I figured she would probably just get about two or three minutes behind me and would eventually catch up.
At this point, the water stations were conveniently about half way between each mile marker, which was nice. I’d pass a mile marker, then look for the water station as my next marker. And I hit every cool’n’fit station on the course – it definitely helped. I had my gel flask with my Accelerade gels and had had some around mile 5, and 15. Around mile 10 I had my cliff shots and used my inhaler, as I’ve learned not to go more than 2 hours without doing so. I was getting water and Powerade at every water station. I was feeling good, and my energy levels kept up. I also sipped the water/Gatorade I had on my fuel belt as I needed.
It wasn’t long after I passed Jackie that I spotted Angie on the other side of the road as she was approaching mile 21. I was pretty impressed that she was almost 5 miles ahead of me. Then I reached Cal State Long Beach, and the course took through the campus. There were lots of students cheering us on – it was great, and it certainly helped break up the monotony. Then I was on the route back towards the beach. And finally there it was mile 20 – psychologically that’s a biggie – 6 miles to go. I was starting to tire a little and had fought off a few side stitches with walking breaks, but then picked it back up. My energy level pick up again at mile 21 – the last 5 to go – less than an hour now.
I started focusing on the music to keep up the momentum. I probably looked pretty silly to those around me trying to do a modified “hoedown throw down” as I was running – but I was having a little fun too. Then Mile 22 – Bon Jovi’s “Keep The Faith”- perfect timing…Then mile 23 – which had previously been my holy grail – what came on? “The Climb” - yep that did the trick. I could feel my legs starting to get sore – but kept on. Then I saw Ocean Avenue – the home stretch. Mile 24 .. Then Mile 25 – the final mile – Now my knees were getting stiff but all of sudden I looked up and saw Janey. Then, Mary. I couldn’t have been more happily surprised. They’d walked back after their race to see me and Jackie and cheer us on to our final mile. I cannot begin describe how much that meant to me. That was it, time to bring it home.
I could see the last two stop lights before the turn down Linden to the finish line. Just as I was approaching the first, a woman who was coaching/cheering people from Team in Training said to me “Oh my god – you look incredible – you don’t look like you’ve just run a marathon!” I have to give Janey and Mary some credit for that – seeing them really perked me up. And then, there is was the final turn, and down the hill to the finish line. And as I came to the bottom of the hill, there was Denise waving to me – and then the finish line- I had to stop for a moment and yelled out a big “YES!!!” before walking over to get my medal. Now I felt like I had accomplished my goal of running a marathon.
I stopped to look behind for Jackie for a minute or so, but didn’t see her and proceeded on through the finisher’s area. I got my cupcake, water, bagel, banana and Larabar, then headed for the cool’n’fit station. As I stopped to stretch, I spotted Jackie approaching the finish line through the white tents. I headed back to meet her and then we found Denise, Mary, and Janey.
We walked around, then got our beer in the beer garden and hung out for a little while. Afterwards I had to leave and started the trek back to the car.
What a day! What a race! Now I feel like a marathoner – I ran the race I wanted to run in May at OC. But seeing my friends throughout at the race and getting that support and encouragement along the way really made it an unforgettable event.