Nike Women's Marathon: #13 Filled with Lots of Firsts

The Nike Women’s Marathon has come and gone, and though I confided last week that races don’t get any easier, this time it did. I guess that’s a BIG, welcome first. But my Lucky 13 proved to offer other firsts as well. Just take a look….

False identity. The woman from whom I’d bought my race number had not yet arrived, but I went to the expo on Saturday to register anyway. Not only did they not have any record of me, but they told me no one was allowed to transfer numbers. So for most of the afternoon, I had a little trained-for-nothing panic attack. But it turns out I raced as someone else. See this wall? You won’t find my name! (Does this mean my 13th wasn’t really my 13th?)

P.S. After the race, I found out number swapping is highly illegal. I won’t ever do it again, and I recommend the same for others. Sickly start. Usually in marathons, the first 10-13 miles are a breeze. I feel great for the first part and struggle at the end. Well, this time, I felt pretty crappy in the first 10K. We were running 9:30 to 9:45 miles (in large part due to the crowds) and I felt like I was sprinting. That was NOT a good sign. And I had a stomach ache, too, as I started to envision my first-ever 5-hour race (“At least I’m running as someone else,” I reminded myself). Hilly, hilly, hilly. I actually like running hills and my instinct is to attack them. But I wasn’t sure how aggressively I should attack the tough ones along the first half of the course, in fear of completely teetering out later in the race. I also thought my legs might tighten up. But neither of the above ever happened. That said, I was caught a bit off guard by the difficulty of the terrain and should have done more hill training on the long runs.

Fartlek frenzy. I read a race recap by the Marathon Mama a few weeks ago, where she offered up her coach’s advice:

If it feels easy, run faster. If it feels hard, run slower.

So the “consistent queen” tried this for the first time and liked it! I also ran with friends for the first half of the course, and that made a big difference, too. Gorgeous scenery. When has San Francisco not been pretty? We ran through gorgeous neighborhoods, near the Golden Gate bridge, through a beautiful park on JFK Boulevard and along the ocean on Great Highway. Too bad it was pouring down rain, or I would have appreciated the beauty even more.

Terrible weather. After Mr. Weatherman had promised us sunny skies, the forecast took a turn for the worse just a few days prior to the race.  It was cloudy, chilly and overcast when we started, but at mile 13, the skies let loose. And didn’t let up till much later in the afternoon. I kept telling myself, “You lived in Seattle. The rain won’t melt you.” Then I’d say, “Even though this sucks, it’s better than the 85 degree heat and sunny skies of Chicago two years ago.” And truthfully, it was.

Frozen fingers. At 2:10 into the race, I was starting to lose feeling in my fingers and could barely unzip my Spi-belt to get out my Gu (in fact, at mile 20, I stopped and asked some kind man to unzip it and get my Gu out for me!). But also problematic was at mile 16 when I wanted to turn my iPOD on (I always save music for the last 10 miles of the race). Not only did I have trouble getting my ear buds in my ears, but I could NOT set my iPOD to play my marathon mix.  I finally stopped to walk for a few minutes, managed to get the cover off, and finally got the tunes going. (I might have broken 4 hours otherwise, or so I’m telling myself).

Sweat in eyes! I have never experienced this before. About mile 23, the rain was blowing pretty hard into everyone’s faces. And the rain was washing three hours of sweat into my eyes. The sunglasses on top of my head (which really came in handy — not!) didn’t do much to help.

Wall- less. My longest training run was 22 miles (the first time I’d ever gone that far) and it really paid off in the race. That late race fatigue didn’t set in till mile 24. So that was only 2 miles of grueling pain, as opposed to an hour’s worth, during which I kept repeating, “You could be hyperventilating in water.” That made “not hitting a wall” even more special.

Spotting runners. My marathon music mix ran out with 10 minutes left in the race. So just when I needed it the most, I had no tunes to energize me (and no functional fingers to turn the music back on). So I started spotting runners and passing them. To myself, I’d say “Orange!” and pass the orange gal. Then, “Blue!” and pass the woman wearing blue. Then black and gray. These are the sorts of mind games a person plays to get to the finish line. And it I did! 4:03.25. And it works!

Other race notes: Elise Nelson is now a marathoner – and she finished her first-ever marathon in San Francisco, in between studying for her pHD. It was great to meet her before the race, and stay tuned for more details on her race experience.

And Lindsay Heuser rocked in the Denver marathon. Way to go!!!

Melinda Hinson