On Saturday, I started the day off with this fun event in Hermosa Beach, called FitFest. It’s basically a way for the city of Hermosa Beach to promote a healthy lifestyle. You get a team of 4 together and go by about 10 different booths/gyms to do a little 5-10 minute workout. We went from cross train routines, to yoga, to rope slams, to monkey bars to tire flips and it was awesome! My gym, Afterburn Fitness had a booth too, so naturally my team that consisted of Afterburnies loved that little workout!
Anyway, after this event in the morning I took a quick shower and headed out to San Diego where I would pick up my race packet. The expo would be held till 5 pm, so I left at 1:30pm with an eta of 3:30pm which would give me plenty of time to walk around at the expo and explore a couple of new running products I hadn’t heard of. The drive to San Diego ended up taking 3 hours and when I finally arrived at the San Diego Convention Center, it took me about half an hour longer before I could even enter the parking lot. Parking was $19, which is such a waste of money, but anyways, since I was stressed about not making it in time, I didn’t want to stress myself out even more by looking for a cheaper place to park.
I arrived at the expo right before 5 and they ended up staying open till 6pm since a lot of people were stuck in traffic (I guess). I have never been to an expo where things went as smooth as they went for this Rock ‘n Roll race. I just love this company and the experience they’ve gathered over the years. Nothing feels better than being directed in the right direction for everything. Everything was explained step by step. There were no lines to pick up the packets. You could try on your shirt and finisher jacket, so you would know which size to get after you finished the race. Everything was just so clear and convenient. Race day parking and shuttle information was well explained, there were lots of amazing food samples, volunteers all had a smile on their face and everyone just knew what they were doing. Companies that organize events this well just make me so happy!
On race day I woke up at 4am. I was staying at my friend Dave’s house, who lives about 15 minutes from the Qualcomm Stadium, where I would park and take the shuttle to Balboa Park. The race started at 6:15 and I arrived at the park at about 5:45. Things were also very well organized at the start line. I knew immediately where to go to check my gear and I found my corral pretty easily too. One thing that I didn’t like about that start line experience was that even though they probably had about 50 porta potties available for use at the park, every potty had a line of like a 100 people waiting to use the rest room. I personally like using the restroom before the race, because I just get stressed out and since I also try to eat enough before the race I want to avoid any food coming up or down during the race. It’s just one of those things that’s part of my ritual. Anyway, I waited in line for 20 minutes but the line wasn’t moving so I ended up just not going.
At 6:15 they sang the national anthem and then it was race time. I was in corral 3, so I started at about 6:20, which wasn’t bad!
The race started off with a couple of hills. They weren’t that hard on me thanks to all my training runs in the hills of Palos Verdes! At mile 3 this lady yelled out: “Common guys, keep pushing, you’re almost done!”. OMG! People, let me tell you… I love people on the side line cheering me on. It’s so amazing and it’s very motivating, but when I’m running a 26 miler, please don’t tell me that I’m almost there when I haven’t even finished a 5k. Same with all the people holding up the little signs that said, this is the last hill. I believed you guys every time, but every time when I saw another hill coming up, I could cry!
Talking about crying… A marathon is a really emotional experience. At least for me it was. At mile 7 I think (or it might have been mile 5), there was this part of the race where we had to run and on both sides of the course there were American flags and there were these pictures lined up of fallen soldiers. By some pictures the family of the fallen hero was sitting by the picture and some pictures were just those heroes with their little kids. They always mentioned under the picture where and when they were killed, and I seriously lost it. I just started crying right there and then and I felt like I couldn’t breath. Those kids had to grow up without a mom or dad, because they were killed while doing something good for this country. It was probably the hardest half mile of the race emotionally.
From there on, things went pretty smoothly until mile 18. I started off a little slower than during my marathon last week, so I lasted a little longer before my body started hurting. Since it was very humid on Sunday, I just felt like I needed to drink at every water station, so I did. They kept signs along the road with all the symptoms of heat stroke and what to do to prevent it, which I thought was awesome. It kept me from going too fast and trying to break a record, but it’s better to use precaution and be a little slower than to overdo it and end up in the hospital.
Starting at mile 17 I always ran for 1.5 mile and then walked for 0.5 mile, which made the race actually really enjoyable. I basically felt like I was exploring the city rather than running a marathon. At mile 22 or 23 the biggest challenge came up. We were running on the freeway when I suddenly heard a bunch of people saying: “Holy sh*t, are you freakin kidding me?!”. At that point I didn’t even want to look up at what was coming, but there it was, a freaking 2-3 mile slight uphill road. It was definitely the hardest part of the race, but when I saw the sign that the Freeway was ending in .75 miles I got so excited to get down that hill and to the finish line that I started running a little faster again. The last mile seemed to go on for forever and my Nike app already told me I got my 26.2 miles in, even though I still couldn’t see the finish line anywhere near. I kept going around corners hoping to see the finish line and when I finally did it was such an awesome feeling.
I crossed the finish line, grabbed all the food they handed out, sat down and just started eating and drinking everything I got. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. My back was hurting. I had zero energy left to do anything, but I made it.
Running a marathon is and has been the greatest physical accomplishment to me. You work up to it and spend your weekends running for 4 hours at a time by yourself. You figure out what works for you and you find out that you can accomplish anything you want as long as you believe in yourself. For anyone who’s contemplating about signing up for a full (or even a half), just do it. You’re going to hate certain parts and you’re going to be emotional the whole time, but you’re going to have this amazing feeling afterward that will make it all worth it.
After sitting down for a while, I headed down to the finishers party to pick up my finishers jacket and I came just in time to see Gavin DeGraw perform on stage. It was so awesome. I loved watching One Tree Hill when I was younger and when he started singing the theme song of that show I was 100% fan girling! He also came so close to me that I almost gave him a high five! Awesome experience!
Thank you to the San Diego locals for buying oranges, slicing them up and handing them out to me and all the other runners. Thank you to all the high school cheerleaders on the course for pushing me to run instead of walk. Thank you to the USC alumni group of San Diego for spraying me with the hose when I was hot and for handing out wet sponges. Thank you to all the locals for spending your money on waters and gummy bears for me. Thanks for all the high fives and for cheering me on. Thank you for every one of you that was there to support me, a random stranger. Thanks to my friends and my Afterburn family for all the support during my whole marathon training! I couldn’t have done it without you guys!
PS: I’ll review last week’s Mountains 2 Beach marathon ASAP!