NWM: The Marathon I Didn’t Deserve

Hardcore Jenster fans might have noticed I got quiet in the weeks leading up to the Nike Women’s Marathon. I was moronically undertrained and I knew if I was honest about how bad all my [lack of] long runs went, I’d have people (rightfully – if you saw my training long, you’d have no clue I was training for a full) telling me to drop to the half. Hell, if I wasn’t me, I’d tell myself to do the half! But traveling across the country for a half is not my style so I had my mind set on torture!
 
My friend Tiffany moved to the Bay Area earlier in the year and immediately began inviting me out for races. She is the amazing friend who did my poof when I dressed up as Snooki for MCM. She and her friend, Kristen, also did Nashville 2010 with me (RR here, for anyone who wants to see a Pre-Loop Jenster report) so we all signed up for the NWM lotto – and won!! We were all super excited!
 
Then Philly Fever hit and NWM dropped to a training race. Then Triathlon Fever hit and I lost all interest in JUST running. Then the Hotter-than-a-Whore-House-on-Nickel-Night summer hit and I lost interest in running period. Long runs were cut short, some skipped all together, and by the time cooler weather came it was too late to do anything about it. 
 
I was 100% confident I would finish. But the real question was: How much pain was the death march going to be? I was scared. So scared I spent hours running reports on my training numbers. Like a good Asian math nerd, I crunched and crunched and crunched until I came up with a plan – Gallowalking to average 12 minute miles and finish by 5:15 uninjured. I’m not injury prone, and felt that I could walk the aid stations and go slow in between  for as long as humanly possible. I could handle a slow marathon as long as Racing Jen wasn’t as STOOPID as training Jen. And then to make it stick, I told myself if Racing Jen wasn’t smart, I’d make her drop to the half in Philly. 
 
Armed with a plan, I hopped over to SF Thursday night. We headed to Sonoma Friday for some fun since we already had Sunday tickets aboard the hurt train (we were all woefully undertrained, With Tiff already planning on the half). We had a good time wine tasting, but it was too warm for a marathon and I was extra nervous. 
The pretty scenery and the wine helped me push bad thoughts out of my head. 
 
 
Winery dogs are attention whores!
 
Saturday we hit the Expo. Reviews on Marathonguide.com prepared me of a chaotic, crowded, useless Expo. It was horrible. I hate tight spaces full of people who dont know how to pick a direction and walk (this was foreshadowing the race to come!) The bib was a stupid circle and we didnt get a race shirt because they wanted us to funnel into Niketown to buy things (We got  finisher’s shirt).
 
22,000 racers and the Expo is in a tent. Pftffff!!
 
Women after free stuff are brutal!!! It’s like a game of tackle football in there!
 
Although I have to admit the free stuff was kinda cool…but not worth waiting or headbutting women out of line. 
 
The trip to Niketown was claustrophobia-inducing and added to my Debbie Downer mentality. Luckily, I ran into the best cheerleader in the world on the corner – THE Ms Ritz!!!!
YAY!!! I met a celebrity!!!
 
She’s so awesome! She’s so South American (is it offensive to Argentinians if I say she reminds me of my Brazillian friends??) in her mannerisms. I wish we had more time to chat (I think she might be able to talk more than me!) but we HAD to meet up with peeps at a winery!
 
Smelling wine that’s currently fermenting. It smelled so strong!!
 
Grape that had been picked that morning…sorry guy, you’re going in my belly instead of becoming vino!
 
A little grape juice is ok before a race, right? We got to visit a private winery that processes wine from different vineyards. It was quite the education and thankfully took my mind off the impending doom that awaited me Sunday Morning. 
 
After the winery we went to dinner, then checked into the hotel. I think only Megan will appreciate this, but I thought there was a wedding in the lobby but it turned out to be a quinceanera.
 
No meatballs in the hallway 😦
 
Reviews on Marathonguide.com also prepared me for a chaotic race start. However, nothing could prepare me for the mass chaos that is a NWM start:
 
Gear Check : you know how every other race in America (and probably the world) has you give your bag to a truck according to Bib# or Last Name? Nike says give your bag to any school bus. Confused? Yeah, you walk up to any school bus and hand your bag to a person through the bus window, and they give you a sticker to put on your bib with the bus # and window letter. A School Bus Window! Those things only open a half inch! And they’re tall. Do you know how awkward it is to pass a bag through a school bus window when you’re 5’6″???
 
Start Corrals: There were no corrals!! They had signs with paces posted, but the section for runners with bibs was non-existent! We were just people in the street. Spectators, Runners, and Walkers just chilling waiting for the start. It was crowded and no one was lined up correctly because there was no way to line up! No ropes or barricades to separate race registrants from spectators. 
 
Runners, coaches, and spectators. This is the “Corral.” Chaos.
 
Kristen, Tiff, and me. Tiff and I are on our toes because Kristen is so tall!
 
I started about 14 minutes behind the clock. It was crowded, but I didnt feel like I had to go around hoards of walkers. Luckily, most of the field was slow and I stuck to my plan. I managed to tuck behind a group who were running their first half. They were doing a good pace and my Garmin was losing signal with the tall buildings. The plan paid off because I hit 5k in 35:43 (11:29 avg – perfect!).
 
The hills started after the 5k mark, but they weren’t bad, I was surprised how easy they were. Part of me realizes it’s because I was moving so slow, but I think I expected Asheville hills…Asheville made the hills on the SF course seem flat! I ran up all hills in the race without issue. Kristen caught up with me around mile 5. She had ran the first few miles with Tiffany before leaving her at the first hill. Kristen proved to be a valuable partner! 10k in 1:13:02 (11:45 avg – slowing but ok!)
Kristen and I on the left next to the 10k sign coming up a small hill.  
 
Once Kristen was with me the miles flew by! The course was congested, but we got around people with minimal effort, walked all aid stations, got hit by kamikaze walker elbows, and saw Ms Ritz!!!
 
Bangle Pumping and feeling awesome! Ms Ritz is the best cheerleader ever!!
 
I hugged her and her response “ugh, you’re so wet!” made me laugh for the next few miles. Hit 15k in 1:50:17 (11:49 avg).
 
On the left…we’re both waiting for the split to take the crowd away. 
 
With the hilliest portions behind us at the 15k mark, we picked up the pace. We hit the half in 2:31:52 (11:35 avg). The crowd thinned out a lot after the Half/full split at mile 11.5 and I was waiting for the pain to roll in since I wasnt expecting to feel good much past the first half.  
 
Miraculously, the miles continued to pass quickly. It was like being in a time warp. We’d pass a marker and be at the next in no time. It helped that most people were running really slowly (as in slower than us!) or walking, because it felt like we were flying…even though we werent. I was finally able to play the game of picking people in the distance to catch and pass, including a couple guys dressed in drag. 25k in 3:00:08 (11:35 avg)
 
Stole this pic from Ms Ritz, but this is a great pic of the 2nd half of the course. We were along the ocean, so surfers were crossing in their wet suits, and the trash cans had awesome sayings on them. My favorite simply said “You’re Beautiful.” Awwwwww. Thanks, trash can!!
 
The race got hard after 25k mentally. We met back with the halfers on their home stretch before forking close to the finish line for our 10 mile lollipop around a lake. It was cruel. I think if the Greek gods wanted to punish me, they’d put me on a race course that’d forever bring me close to a finish line only to veer off at the last second. I had fully expected the pain train to hit me at 16 but it didn’t. We hit 30k at 3:34:34 (dropping the avg pace to 11:30…we were speeding up!).
 
I usually hit my wall around 17 and 18 during a marathon but the pain train wasn’t making a stop. Even during Shamrock I was taking frequent walk breaks by 18. But the wall never came. Kristen and I were still “flying” past everyone else at the 20 mile marker. Did I dream the last 20 miles?? I had no right to feel as good as I did. NO RIGHT! It’s not that I wanted punishment, but marathons are hard, even when properly trained. I know this; this was my 5th one. Ive had the pity party in which I questioned why I do this when I suck. I’ve been through the crying and cursing myself for hours and hours and wondering why I ever thought I could do it. I knew if this happened during Nike, I’d deserve it. But we just kept going faster! 35k at 4:08:18 (11:25 avg).   
 
At this point I knew I wouldnt PR, but I was confident I’d get in below 5 hours as long as I didn’t fall apart. Kristen and I were still powering through but talking less and less. The miles felt longer mentally. Around mile 23 I started feelin something. It wasnt the wall…more like a slow tightening of my legs. It was more discomfort than pain and I pushed past it. Whatever it was, it’d have to wait until after the finish line. 40k 4:42:02 (11:20 avg). 
 
The crowds started line the streets. The last two miles were hard, but it was too late to bring me down and I was taking full advantage of the miracle. I’m a wimp and I hate to push…but how could I slow down? I wasn’t allowed to quit. 
 
I almost cried when I saw the finish line and began my kick, crossing in 4:56:42 (11:18 avg – Faster miles at the end got the avg way down!). 
 
It must be Christmas because I never get floating pics!!!
 
Not a PR but who cares? I was alive! Only slightly sore. I only walked aid stations…no other walking the whole race! AND I HAD A NEGATIVE SPLIT MARATHON!!!!!  2:31:52 vs 2:24:50  WHAT??????? Who knew all that start slow advice was any good??
 
 
 All that for a little blue box. 
 
Post race, we met up with an old friend who lives in SF, and she took us to the Mission District for a yummy burrito and beer. I wish I got a pic but I inhaled it!!
 
Kristen went home and Tiffany had to work, leaving me free to wander SF on Monday. I planned on taking the train into the City to meet California Running and Santiago of the Sea for an early lunch. Unfortunately, the smart race must have drained my brain power, because I got on the wrong transit system going in the wrong direction!!! (Apparently the VTA to San Jose is different than the Caltrain to SF. Who knew?)
 
Luckily they were understanding and didn’t flog me when I rolled up 30 min late! Let me tell you, the are the cutest couple ever!!! And awesome! We talked about everything under the sun – from races to strip clubs to Supermarket Sweep! Haha. 
We all got carded for our drinks….take that, Runner’s Face!!!!!
 
I also have to steal a portion of CR’s version of this pic…because it shows how good I felt the next day.
 
Yes…I walked around the city in heels!
 
After lunch we walked around Niketown checking out all the overpriced goodies. They are such a delight I didn’t want them to leave!! I really hope we can do an Ultra Loopfest….whether it’s in CA, NC, or anywhere in between. Who’s in???
 
After leaving them, I headed to the apartment of an old friend I hadn’t seen in over 7 years! Sadly, I didnt get a pic of us together (he says that means I need to come back immediately) but I was in heaven! Not only was he even dreamier than I remembered, take a look at the view from his private roof!
 
Let’s just say it was really, really hard for me to head back to Raleigh. So in a week, I went from an unconfident mess who was dreading a trip west to a capable runner who didn’t want to leave. Life is funny like that. I’m taking this week easy…but then it’s on like donkey kong. BRING ON PHILLY!!!!!
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