at the finish

Monday, December 07, 2009

Apparently, I looked like a karate-chopping smurf while sprinting toward the finish line yesterday.

But the important fact is that I finished -- 4:50:58. And now I can say I'm a marathoner, which is funny since I've never thought of myself as an athlete.

From beginning to end, the race was an experience. I could barely sleep Saturday night, and when I did doze off, I had bizarre dreams, all of them running-related. I woke up at 3:15 to eat bananas and chocolate soy milk and go to the bathroom a million times. Then I met my running buddy Neveia in the lobby at 5, and we got on the shuttle to the starting line.

The ride was torture. We were on that damn bus for what seemed like an eternity, and all I could think about was, Where are they taking us? Why is it so far away? And how the hell do they expect me to run back? And it was cold. Really ridiculously, unbelievably cold. The bus went past a car dealership, and every car in the lot was covered in a thick layer of frost.

When we finally got to the start near Folsom Dam, Neveia and I immediately headed for the port-a-potty line -- along with the entire field of 7,000 runners. The line took forever, but the wait gave us a chance to chat with our fellow mashochists, and we met a British guy who cracked us up by timing how long people were in the outhouses.

We lined up with the 4:30 pace group. The race started promptly at 7, and even with the large number of runners, it only took us about 5 minutes to cross the starting line. The first mile was an easy downhill, and as people began to warm up, they shed layers of clothing. We had to dodge a couple of trashbags, mittens and sweatshirts that other runners had abandoned in the road.

Neveia and I had a good clip going and passed the 4:30 group. We stayed well ahead of the group for half of the race. (My half marathon split was 2:11.) I started to get my hopes up for a 4:20 finish. But then at Mile 18, I slowed down at an aid station, lost Neveia (who finished in 4:32) and saw the 4:30 pace group go by.

I couldn't catch up. My lungs and breathing were fine, but my left hamstring was screaming, and my right ankle was sore too. My stride got shorter, and I had to take some walk breaks.

I kept running as much as possible, but it was tough. Small things helped. Between the Mile 24 and 25 markers, there was a Del Taco, which made me laugh, and right as I approached it, someone was blasting Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me," which made me think of Christina and I ran for her. I also found myself chanting the names of the people I love over and over. And I almost started crying when I recognized my co-worker Carol watching the race as I entered the last mile -- I actually ran off of the course to give her a hug -- it was so awesome to have her support.

Todd, my parents and my friends Marcos and Julie were on the last stretch up L Street, and by then, I was gutting it out -- ignoring the pain and just going for it. I had been passed by the 4:45 pace group, and I wanted to finish under 5 at all costs, so I gave it everything I had. I passed a few people and did an all-out sprint toward the finish.

And then I was done. And it was weird and sort of anti-climatic. Someone handed me a disposable blanket and a bottled water. Someone else took my photo in front of a banner that said "Finisher." And then I wandered around for a long time and couldn't find anyone I knew. And it was so cold, and all I had was the stupid disposable blanket. I ended up hobbling into a pizza place and asking one of the cooks if I could use his cell phone to call my family to come get me.

And now, I kind of don't know what to do with myself. All the training is over. I called in sick today (because I'm so sore I can barely walk) and have been hanging out in pajamas and reading the last Harry Potter book, and I feel oddly like something is missing.

Is it too soon to start thinking about the next race?


Kate said...

I'm seriously so impressed you ran a marathon--forget the fact that you want to do it again! You're like the bionic woman.

Shara Lessley said...

You look beautiful! And I'm so glad Todd and Marcos and Julie were there -- A-town in the house! Have I mentioned that I'm proud of you? Why don't you schedule a marathon abroad...I'm thinking Jordan 2012?

Michaela said...

Thank you so much! I thought of the two of you like crazy while I was out there. Can't wait to see you both in February!

P.S. Debating running the Marine Corps marathon in D.C. in fall 2010. Maybe Mandalay at the finish line? That would be amazing!

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