Tuesday, July 31, 2012

San Francisco Marathon: Seven Is The Number Of The Day

Amidst all the glitz and glamour that acme with being a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador, there was still a race to be run.

Okay, there was scant few glitz and little glamour, but still, I'd been a part of the Ambassador program since late last year and with months of buildup and anticipation to this event, being there and meeting all of my fellow Ambassadors was quite surreal. But I couldn't let that get to me. I still had 26.2 miles to run.

Not having had the kind of training I had wanted, the task of running the distance for the third time in 2012 and seventh time ever made it quite daunting. Still, I found myself feeling somewhat composed at the start line. I had little doubts that I would finish after all, it was mostly the worry of in what condition I'd be at the finish that was bothersome to me.

I walked to the 5th wave along with fellow Ambassador Daniela, who was running the 1st Half Marathon.

We enjoyed a few pre-race moments together before we parted ways shortly after the start of the race. Once on the course, I smiled. I was excited. The race was finally here.

Running on The Embarcadero, I quickly settled into a rhythm. What helped was my decision early in the morning to ditch my Garmin. I decided at the last minute to leave the Garmin at the hotel room and opted to run the marathon without any sort of idea of my time or pace or anything. Without the pressure of having to meet a time, I was able to concentrate on feeling strong and running at a comfortable and steady pace.

My attention was on the course as well. I ran past Boudin and again smelled the intoxicating smell of sourdough bread. I was anxious once more for the Golden Gate Bridge and once more it did not disappoint. The fog was thick though so I did not have a great view of the City but that did not matter. I was in complete awe of the Bridge and even took my hat off while I was under each tower, gazing up at the enormity of the structure.

I went around the Bridge parking lot and quickly went back on my way. As I set off on the journey across the Bridge, a runner came from behind, passed me and then shot a look back at me. "I love your blog!" he said and I smiled back at him. That was just one of many energy boosts I received throughout the race. I soaked in the tower every time I went underneath one. The Bridge was great but it was also a bit congested but before too long I was back on firm ground.

And quickly into an uphill. This quickly became a theme. More uphills, more climbs, more inclines. That did not change when I was in Golden Gate Park, meandering through the part that threatened to defeat me mentally in 2010.

The path snaked its way through the park and I followed along. One new thing from 2010 was running alongside runners from the 2nd Half Marathon. Unlike two years ago, this time was more pronounced. I passed by the start of the 2nd Half, with a stable full of runners waiting for the start.

Before too long, I was out of the park onto Haight, which was a really long uphill. By this time I was nearing Mile 20 and I was feeling strong. But my strength was fading. What sapped my energy - the downhills. With my leg muscles already shot, they had to work extremely difficult to keep me from falling down those hills. I had no choice though but to try and slow myself down. I did, but it was at the expense of my leg strength.

Still, I plodded forward. I grew with excitement every time I approached a mile marker. Mile 23 was exciting, Mile 24 even more so, Mile 25 was superb. I was running around AT&T Park at this point, making audible grunts when I had to go up or down curbs and sidewalks or when I hit a rough patch of pavement.

Throughout this stretch, I was overcome with emotion. The severity of it all hit me like a baseball bat across the head. I was running my seventh marathon. Seven! This was for real. Five was great and six was great but seven... that's some serious stuff. And it was me doing it - me! I'd never intended to run anything, let alone a marathon, and yet here I was on the verge of running my seventh marathon. Unbelievable.

I scanned ahead for my family and finally saw them. My girls bundled up in their jackets, jumping up and down, Mrs. LB snapping some pictures and then shouting encouragement at me. I felt grand.

As I got closer though I was once again overcome with emotion and as I passed them I struggled to keep it together.

But I tried.

I approached the finish line and figured, why not, and held my arms out like I'd done at this very same spot two years ago.

I had done it. I'd finished the San Francisco Marathon again. And I was now a seven-time marathoner. Seven!

It really happened! And I made it happen!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

San Francisco is done!

What a day! I will have more to share later but for now just wanted to say that I did it and finished the San Francisco Marathon! My time was not the greatest - a 4:46, my slowest time to date - but I thoroughly enjoyed the race.

I love this event and hopefully will get to run it again next year!

Thanks as always for your support!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

San Francisco Calling

Well, it's here. Almost here I should say.

The San Francisco Marathon is here and on Sunday I will run it. This will be my seventh marathon and the second time I've revisited a marathon course. I've run Surf City twice as well as LA, OC and the Diamond Valley Lake marathons.

Yeah, I still can't believe it either.

It seems my journey has been a bit of a whirlwind and has been rather unpredictable even for myself. I mean, I can't say that I thought I would have run one marathon let alone seven. And I'm not exactly going to stop at seven. Long Beach will be eight and I'm hoping LA next March will be number 10.

Two years ago, I never could have imagined I'd be going back to San Francisco. While I enjoyed the 2010 event tremendously and was very proud of myself for having handled that and trained for it all on my own, the race was quite difficult. In fact, I may or may not have said to Mrs. LB after the race: "I liked it but I'm never going to run this race again."


Of course, that was probably a oxygen-lacking post-race haze-induced comment I muttered. I've been known for several similar quips.

Regardless of how I felt immediately afterward, the pain has long subsided and all the remains are the memories. And my what memories San Francisco produced - the hills, the beauty of the course, running on the Golden Gate Bridge, spending some tourist time at Fisherman's Wharf the day after the race... it was all pretty crazy and all very memorable.

This year, I'm heading back as an Ambassador. That's a bit crazy, honestly. Me, an ambassador. I don't even know still if I belonged in the program yet I will be heading up, looking forward to perform my ambassodorial duties whatever they may be and looking forward to meeting a bunch of amazing people I've been blessed to have crossed paths with.

At the heart of this all though is the race itself. No matter how unique and fantastic the Ambassador experience has been and no matter how many awesome people I've met through this program, nothing and nobody will help me run the course. I must run every step, conquer every hill, get past every mental challenge that will undoubtedly try and thwart me on the streets of San Francisco.

It's a challenge I'm willing to meet head on, but one that will take every last ounce of energy, every last drop of perspiration, every last bit of grit, determination, guts and drive that I have in my soul. I know it. I know this will be my hardest marathon, that's not even in question. I haven't had the training I wish I would have had and this course will not care. This course is relentless and unyielding, and I've got to traverse it somehow.

I fully intend on finishing. That's not a question in my mind whatsoever. I intend on crossing the finish line sometime late Sunday morning. I just am not sure in what sort of shape I will be when I do so.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Not So Triumphant Return

As you may or may not have noticed, I haven't posted anything. In a while. Ugh.

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that when I'm passionate about something, when I'm confident and feeling good about something, I tend to be at my best. And that's true about writing. My best blog posts are when I've been passionate and confident and want to share.

The opposite is also true. When my heart's not into something, it's tough for me to hide that - particularly in my writing. Now, I'm not saying that my heart hasn't been into running in the last seven weeks or so but I certainly do not feel confident about my summer. I've hardly run. I've not kept up anywhere near the frenetic pace I was at through May. Hence, the slowdown in posts.

I wanted to say sorry for that and for just abandoning you all and hope that you'll continue reading. I do want to pick up where I'd left off, particularly since the San Francisco Marathon is this week.

So, in terms of running, my summer has consisted basically of this:

2-3 days of running in the middle of the week
a long run on the weekend.

I've actually done well to get in my long runs. I ran 18 miles sometime in June and on July 8 ran 20 miles. It was actually a pretty good run - the latter - and gave me hope that San Francisco won't be a total failure. Yeah, I've been dreading my performance come Sunday. Part of me thinks that I will flame out and finish with my worst time but another part of me is confident that I'll at least beat my 2010 time. I think I've made that my goal, to finish the race with a 4:38:50 or better.

Anyway, I didn't really have much to add right now other than saying sorry for vanishing and also trying to explain my absence. I'll be back this week though, will try and post every day before the marathon so please keep an eye out for that.