Thursday, February 7, 2013

Race Report: Surf City Marathon [The Race]

 Read all about the expo & the best surprise ever here!

I've struggled all week with where to start this post. Every time someone asks, "How was the marathon?," I don't really have an answer; I usually shrug and say, "It went. I'm alive!" It's not that I feel terrible about my performance - heck, I met my first two marathon goals - but I think that it's still semi-surreal that I actually did it. I've looked through the Facebook photo albums friends have created a few times, cried over the surprise photos, looked at the official Brightroom photos, and I've looked at the Google map tracker saying I finished... I think I'm just in shock still. Or in denial, but whatever.

It's long. It's my first marathon. Get over it. Just look at the pretty pictures if you want the summation of the adventure!

As if I could forget?
Race Day
Thankfully, I slept better than I had all week on Saturday night. Our alarm was set for 3:50 am, and despite waking up about 2:15 (darn hydration plan!), I slept the whole way through. I was wide awake by 3:40, laid in bed, stared at the ceiling, wondering how it was race day already. Once everyone was up and moving, it was real - this is it! Race morning! Out the door by 4:35, stopped at the institution known as Manna Donuts for coffee, bagels, and yes, donuts. Since Tina was planning on seeing me and Kasey off, and her hotel was on the way to the start line, instead of making her figure out the shuttle nonsense, we picked her up on the way - at her hotel by 5:20, and to parking (we found a lot where they didn't make us pay!?) and on the bus and at the start line just about 6 am. Kasey and I were off at 6:34 after the porto stop and a few photos. In hindsight, I think I'm really glad we didn't give ourselves too much time once we were at the start - I think that would have freaked me out more.

Early morning - almost go time!
At the start, we met up with my friend Michael. I met Michael at SDSU in grad school;  he was in the program a year ahead of me. He did his few years in student affairs, but left a few years ago and became a personal trainer (talk about life change) - in fact, he coached two of the Biggest Loser at-home winners (Jennifer and Mike)! He was running the marathon today too - considering I haven't seen him since somewhere near 2007, it was great to catch up over the course of the next five hours (literally).I had told Michael my two goals: a) finish standing upright and, despite being told to not have a time goal for your first marathon, b) finish sub-5, which I felt was a respectable first marathon effort. He told me that if I stuck with him, I'd sub-4:30. I pretty much laughed in his face: Ha! You, sir, are funny.

And then it was go time! 6:34 came faster than I could have imagined - and we were off! Kasey told me she'd need to pace herself and she'd do her own thing. I didn't like leaving her, but I knew that she really needed to do her own thing to ensure she felt okay the whole way through and would finish. Michael and I trucked forward.

I had planned (and agonized) with my parents about where exactly I wanted them, needed them, throughout the course - for mental motivation and then for extra snackage. Both my dad and Doug knew to text me and tell me where exactly they were so I could look ahead - it's times like these I find it vital to run with my phone! The plan was Mile 4, and therefore Mile 9ish (there's a figure-8 through the parks where the course almost meets up with itself again) and Mile 16ish and the finish.

The scenery in and around Huntington Beach is gorgeous, to say the least. The course had one true hill, at Mile 8, so I was already prepping to enjoy the flatness, the scenery and the few parks we'd get to run through from Miles 4-7, essentially, which were also the only residential areas of the race. Superb. I quickly forgot about my intervals (still debating if that was a good idea or not), and just ran to how I felt. I can safely say that, for the better part, ran through Mile 11, and felt great. My half split was just about 2:19, a safe time, and on par-ish with half marathon times from the fall plus some minutes to conserve myself. Mile 4, my mom, dad, and Doug were, just as planned. I still felt great at this point, but it was so exciting seeing them along the way!

Doug was just before the downhill leading into the latter half of Mile 8, who turned and signaled to my parents at the bottom of the hill! My mom had made posters for me and had a gigantic electronic bell! Just before Mile 9 or so, the half marathoners started showing up - I knew any minute I'd see Katy Beth flying down the road. The marathoners turn north just before Mile 10, and I must've missed the KB overlap by seconds. I was bummed I didn't see her, as that was about the point that I needed a little more camaraderie and motivation. Michael and I ... still trucked on. The marathon course double-backed twice basically up towards Bolsa Chica State Park - the first 'arm' going up PCH and the second going up the pedestrian walkway on the beach. Up until Mile 13 or so, we were decently ahead of the 4:40 pacers (unbelievable, in hindsight).

Doug and my parents had fought their way back towards the start (I'm told this was beyond chaotic), and Doug had jumped out of the car to get to me at Mile 16 in time for a half-peanut butter sandwich. I took half of that, held on to it for a few seconds, and handed it back. I couldn't even fathom eating anything, though in theory it had sounded like a great idea. I was just grateful he was there - I was starting to hurt for sure. He walked with us for a few minutes, met Michael and then it was tummy time - yeah... I got moving again! Miles 17 on were a mix of walking, jogging, and running short sprints to specific markers. I was hurting - my knee was holding up great, it was the ball of my foot that hurt most and my hips. (I run with poor form. I know this. So when I do pay attention and correct, my hips hate me!).

Mile 23 and smiling - not dead!
My major wall began at Mile was in the last stretch, that blasted 21-26 stretch, that I was fighting the mental fatigue, the thing that says "WTF am I doing?" and fighting to make sure I stayed ahead of the 4:55 and 5-hour pacers. They kept me moving, only because I didn't want them to finish first. Competitiveness, at its best. Jon (Tina's husband) was somewhere around the Mile 23 marker or so, snapped a few photos and biked on to the finish to meet up with everyone else! I knew at this point that Katy Beth was done, and Tina would be close. She called me a few times, and it was after the second call I realized she must be done! My turn - let's do this.

The half and full courses meeting up again for the last two, maybe two and a half miles. About Mile 25 1/2, Heather was running alongside me! She told me that Michael had texted her that we were both on par to finish at 11:45 am, and to keep an eye out for me - and she managed to find us! (The courses were still separated by a series of cones). She told me I was so close, I was almost there and I would make it. I had nothing left... I was gassed. (HP later said that when she saw me, she was not the Runner Megan she knew)... my races usually end with a great sprint to the finish, and here I was, only wanting to walk at Mile 26.1 Seriously. I had nothing left.

I jogged. I jogged into the finish, gave it all I got and still finished with a jog. There were my parents and Katy Beth and Doug and Jon. Further down the fence was Tina! And finally, that mat, that clock, the balloons... I did it! I gasped, grabbed Michael for a hug, and limped to my medal. To that surfboard, to the heat blankets, to the FOOD. And straight into the medic tent - my hips were on fire and I needed help as soon as I could, please and thank you. Michael found Doug for me, told him where I was so they all knew I was fine, just in the tent. Many thanks to my friend Lance in medic-land for helping me out! Oi!

I didn't get to say bye to Michael - he took off not long after. Michael, I know I said it before, but I owe you the biggest thank you for pushing me, encouraging me, distracting me, and getting me to my finish! It was fun catching up, but I'm so grateful I had somebody all along the way. And thanks for taking your worst marathon time ever for me.

Parents and me. :)
My dad came and found me in the tent, made sure I was okay, and let me know that everyone was behind the tent on the grass waiting for me. I started tingling - my face, my hands, and was told by a different medic that I needed calcium in me probably stat, and to take some Tums as soon as I got home (little did she know, HP and I don't travel without Tums). And then the photo flurry began! I did it! My mom was bawling for a hot second, so proud, so happy... I still had no tears. Mom and Dad soon headed off, and after some stretching (perks to dating a football coach), I was feeling a little more alive.

At this point, I hadn't even looked at my watch, but I knew the clock had read just about 5:03-something when I crossed. I knew, that if I in fact made it sub-5, it would be the squeak of all squeaking by. Heather, Katy Beth and Tina went towards the tents to see if they could figure out where Kasey was, and would at the same time check all their times. I was still laying on the grass when they broke the news...


I started kicking, mostly in joy, but it probably looked like a temper tantrum. I'm not sure if it was tears or laughing or more of that surrealness, but I covered my face and started a mix of the two. I did it! I made my goal! I made both goals! Un-freaking-believable. After a quick breakdown, Doug and I made our way to the finish line and fence, as Kasey was going to be finishing any minute. Not a few minutes longer and she was there - with her sister at her side, Kase was about to finish! We did it! We did it! Katy Beth had another great sub-2, Tina PRd the half by almost 15 minutes, and HP too! Kasey and I finished standing upright! Incredible morning.

I can look at these photos over and over and still not believe that was me - after my longest run at 17 miles, after 9 days out with a chest cold, after the nerves and the antsy and the disbelief that I was doing this for the better part of 26 miles, 385 yards... I guess that is me. I'm a marathoner. I have a medal hanging from my bathroom mirror to prove it, I have a DailyMile record that says I ran 26.22 miles on Sunday, and a finishing time that proves that I did, in fact, cross that line.

We all did it! Katy Beth, Tina, and HP in their halfs and me and Kase in our full!
After Kasey was done, and after our personal photo shoot with Jon, we headed up and out of Huntington Beach for a little BJ's Brewery action (mmmm berry burst cider!) before making our way home for a flurry of showers, packing, and heading up to a friend's for the Super Bowl (we showed up after halftime, but thankfully during that power outage!). Doug and I dropped Heather off at the airport at 7, and my turn not even 12 hours later. Just like that, the weekend was over. After nine of months of anticipation, training, planning... marathon weekend was over.

I'm a marathoner!

And all I can think is... "What's next!?"

Have you ever ran a race that just felt unbelievably surreal? What made it feel 'real' to you in the end? 


  1. So very proud of you!!! you did it!!!! Congrats on your first marathon :D :D

    1. Thank you dear! I did in fact do it! Or I blacked out and they hung a medal around my neck anyway. I did it! :)

  2. You're a freaking marathoner!!

    I am so incredibly proud of you {and your friends, too}!! I got a bit teary reading your recap and loved that your college friend ran with you the entire time. I hate that you had so much pain but you'll forget about it soon enough and only remember the highlights of the race. And what a gorgeous course to run! xoxoxo - Gina

    1. I'm a FREAKING marathoner! And you're almost x 2! Holy smokes!

      Awww, not that I meant to make you cry, but I'm touched. You know, I wouldn't say the pain was unbearable. It was a reminder that this is work, I put work into it, and it's going to take work to finish it all, too. It's not meant to be easy ... otherwise more than 1% of the human population would call themselves marathoners. But that's not the case.

      I'm definitely remembering highlights... and smiling... and wondering how the hell I just did that.


  3. Congrats on your full! Wish I could get a training schedule down in order to properly train for one! I'll get there. Maybe by the end of this year...

    But -- You're now a Marathoner! You've PR'ed on the full! You should update your PR list. :) (Just a friendly reminder!)

    1. Thanks for the friendly reminder! I haven't forgotten, just been a crazy week! I'm off to it... right now!

  4. writing my first marathon recap took SO long! so proud of you, cant wait to see whats next :) congrats!!

    1. I think, for the first time in my life, I was at a loss for words. Seriously. It's still surreal, and I think will be for awhile. But I think I'm allowed to be that way, let it sink in, then take some time and learn from training and the race and know how to prepare for ... gulp... next time!

      Thanks for the love. :)

    2. woo hoo!! next time! :) i thought for quite a while i would be one and done after that first one (note to self: drinking beer and attending a kelly clarkson concert that night, not such a great idea)... and now, 8 marathons later... hehe