All that’s left is to run the race that is set before us. The physical work has been successful, the mental preparation has been sturdy. Reconciling the two, the mental and the physical, is a reward in itself, but today the race is the thing, the act itself.
The lead-up week looked like this: 21 total, a couple of short MGP pace workouts, lots of food and drink, and a long, drawn-out test of patience. By the middle of the week I was eating lots of couscous, drinking non-stop shots of double saturated Gatorade, and itching to run. Thursday and Friday were supposed to be zero mile days, but just for the sake of routine and sanity, I ran for 10 minutes each morning. After swearing off the Aussie carb-load trick at Boston, I succumbed to it again on Saturday, but didn’t sweat the exact amounts. I drank five of these 100 carb drinks in the 24 hours between my Saturday morning sprint and the marathon. Plus a big breakfast (waffles/cereal), normal lunch (couscous) and dinner (Quesadillas/rice), lots of gatorade all day, and woke up at 2 and 3 am to down more Gatorade and Clif bars.
The original plan was for me to stay with a friend in S.A. and the family drive down to cheer the morning of the race, but at the last minute we decided to get a hotel. Lucked into one right on mile 8 and it worked out great for all of us. Jess and E got to walk to the Alamo, J and myself lounged in the room. Sunday morning I woke for good at 4:30am and walked 10 minutes to the shuttle buses (after hearing horror stories from 2008 I wanted to make sure transportation was a no-stress part of my race). Later, the family was able to just walk out the door and be on the course.
Walked right on to the bus, a short ride, then a 10 minute walk to the start area. Two hours before start time, I picked up a bagel and some bottled drinks, then parked under a tree to try to nap. An hour to go I did the potty thing, the bag drop off, and headed up the 34 corrals to the start. Feeling calm but ready, both the good and the banal on the loudspeakers began to move me. I noticed all the nervous energy around me, the people laughing, the sincere well wishes, the hugs and kisses. I was glad to be where I was, I was where I was supposed to be.
A few fun minutes with the training crew … Mario, John, Farshid, Jesus, Madison. Would have really liked to see Woo. Another quick potty behind a building and back and time to focus. One last mental reminder of what this is about: not me, not my will but Thine be done. Be who you are, express what you have and enjoy the experience.
Finally we’re off, I’m with Mario, it’s a bit crowded, too much weaving, looking around, I don’t have much idea what to expect from the course. I’d made a last minute decision to carry a cytomax bottle and skip the craziness that usually accompanies early water stops. First mile in, I regret the decision and chunk the bottle. From here on home hydration routine works out to about one Cytomax cup and 2 cups of water each stop. Sometimes more, sometimes less, often one of the cups gets dumped over the head.
I’m trying to stay with Mario but the crowd is thick. Move around some runners, through some others. I don’t know the turns or tangents so I’m moving outside, then inside, then to the curb and back. Wasted movement and I tell myself not to get antsy or annoyed. Already my borrowed Garmin is way ahead of the course. I notice a couple other Gazelles running with us, Madison up ahead. I don’t feel comfortable yet, no rhythm, it feels like we’re a little fast. Mario and I keep reminding ourselves to stay relaxed, to back off, it’s a long race.
At this point I think Mario seems stronger than me and wonder if I can keep up. I tell myself to just hang on to his shoulder. After one water stop he pulls away and I have to speed up to catch him. I decide it’s worth it. I can’t thank him enough for leading the way through the first half. I didn’t feel great the first 10 miles but just keeping up with him helped me immensely.
Somewhere in these miles I first notice a red-haired girl in a red running skirt a hundred meters ahead. You don’t see many of either in a marathon and the combination is striking. She’s running with a guy in a cross-country jersey and I assume she is a college girl running the half.
No real spectators until mile seven or so. I’m noticing the bands though and I like them a lot. The songs give me energy. I take time to listen and to look. Seems like every one has a female singer.
Lots of turns and I notice again the Garmin is already way off. A little frustrating because even though I’m running 6:20ish pace by my Garmin, the course clock shows 6:30 pace. That means I’m running too far, not hitting the tangents. I make a mental note to pay more attention.
Mile seven through the city and I see the Gazelles cheering brigade. Big boost. A hard right and I nearly get cut off at the corner. Mile eight past our hotel and I look for the family but they’re not there. Around the corner and there they are. Always a speed shot to see the family, I give them a little fist pump. Turns out the fist pump becomes my “thing” this race. I’m starting to feel strong, the energy is flowing, I’m happy to be doing what I love and doing it well. I’m thankful for the spectators, the bands, the cheerleaders, the volunteers the families on their porches, the passersby oblivious to the spectacle. I give a lot of fist pumps to all of them. I’m feeling good.
We turn the corner to head south on mile ten and the wind hits us. If you weren’t running you probably wouldn’t notice it but we immediately notice it and our pace slows a couple seconds per mile. We see Gilbert for another big boost. He admonishes us to stay strong, keep hydrated, to work together.
The split off for the half runners is here and I see the red skirt girl stay for the full and I’m kind of shocked. I don’t know why, I shouldn’t be, lots of girls are faster than me, but she seems so strong. I think she must be going for an Olympic Trials qualifier (2:47).
Somewhere in here we see Jonathan D from Gazelles. He runs along side with a happy aura and wet towels. “Here, keep cool, don’t worry and just throw them down up ahead.” I’m not sure if it was his demeanor, the small actions, or the unselfishness but the encounter with him really moved me. I feed off his awesomeness and I’m jacked up now more than ever. Thanks Jonathan.
The splits are clicking off. We’re passing other runners pretty consistently. Most of them seem to really be struggling. We passed a guy from Chile who’s breathing really hard. He latches on to my shoulder for a few seconds which annoys me enough to make me speed up. We pass a young dude who is working really hard and asks us what we’re shooting for. I say nothing but Mario manages a short “twofitty”. Shortly after this Mario says, “this is really hard.” I respond, “yeah, you want to take turns blocking the wind? Get behind me.” I think I hear him say, “ok” but I’m not sure. At any rate that’s the last I’m with him. I debate momentarily if I should stay with him or go, but I’m feeling it and I’m here to run my race. But again, not enough thanks for Mario.
By the half I’m 15 seconds ahead of Mario, I see him on some turns then one final look back and I don’t see him again. I turn my concentration to the runners up ahead. There are a lot of them coming back to me. It seems like it’s a tough day for most but I don’t seem to be affected. I’m starting to dump water over my head and into the wind I even feel a little chill. My energy is full, spirits are high, I’m holding myself back from really going for it. I keep reminding myself of what my 2:29 friend says: “Everyone feels great through 18.”
I see red girl grab a bottle off the elite table. She’s elite!? Immediately she turns around and puts it back. She’s clueless?! Soon she pulls away from her running buddy and is in and out of my sight. Fuck she’s running strong. I vow to keep a bead on her and chase her to the end. It’s desolate out here on the back half and she’s my siren on this day.
Mile 16, a short U-turn, and I’m shocked to see Madison coming the other way. He should be way ahead. Turn another corner, I see him walking and I’m saddened. He stops and starts and stretches and I pass him reluctantly. For a split second I wonder if I should stop but he has a running partner and doesn’t seem to be in any danger so I ask him if he’s alright and I keep running.
Another corner and … there’s nothing. No runners, no cones, no spectators. I wonder if I missed a turn. I couldn’t have, just keep running. Soon enough I’m back among the world. I see red girl. I’m passing more runners. I’m trying hard to contain my excitement. Still a long way to go. But I feel strong, energetic, happy, excited, joyous. This is how it’s supposed to go and I wish everyone felt this way. I remind myself to be grateful, that it’s not my ability, I’m just the expression. Grace is the word I’m looking for.
“I can work harder than this, it feels like I’m just jogging. Should I be working harder?” I didn’t want to get greedy but the thoughts are hard to fend off. I love the cheerleaders, I like the bands. I fist pump and high five. Mile 20 and red girl is coming back to me. Finally I catch her and say, “I’ve been chasing you all day. You’re running so strong.” She replies, “well, you caught me and now I’m dead, so you better go.” I can’t tell if she’s pissed or encouraging. Unsure, I take off. I looked her up later and saw she ran 2:52. Well run race red girl, well run. And thank you for pulling me through 20 miles.
Now the sun peeks out and I immediately feel the difference. I pass a guy who is drenched and he takes off his shirt. I say something about the wind in our face both ways, he says something about the sun and humidity. It’s the first I really notice it. I’m drenched too. I consider de-shirting but want to represent the GZL and don’t want to carry the shirt. Fortunately the sun hides behind the clouds again and that’s the last I think about it.
Mile 21 and I see the same Gazelle brigade as before. I pick it up, give a fist pump, they’re yelling … and my hamstring twinges. Oh crap. But it’s just an instant and it passes as quick as it came. I hear Kevin say something like, “holy sh**, he’s like top 20 or something!” This is the first idea I get of how well I’m doing. It gives me a momentary boost but again I remind myself to stay humble and patient. I had told myself to make it to 20 then try to light it up the last 10k. I’ve pushed that back to the last 4 miles. I’m running so well there’s no need to get greedy.
Suddenly I notice I’m hungry. I took a Gu at 5, 13, and 18 and decide to take my last one even if it’s too late to have any effect. It seems to work because I never think of it again.
Mile 22 and I merge back against the marathoners still heading out at mile 12. More energy from their cheers. I lock on to a couple guys 1/4 mile ahead. I like the lack of turns and the long straight empty road ahead.
Mile 24 merges with the half runners still finishing up. Thank goodness they have the street separated. Unlike Dallas White Rock where I had to weave and bob and scream and cry my way through hordes of half’ers, I have half the street to myself. Then Gilbert is there with a bullhorn and the energy of a supernova. He’s screaming at the few half-runners moving into my lane. He’s yelling at me to keep strong. “Iyo ngwe! Iyo ngwe!” I get so geeked up I drop the pace, I’m feeling it, yeah baby…. uh oh, my hamstring locks up. I have to stop. I stop for a second, two. Gilbert goes quiet. Keep running, just keep running. Almost like it never happened, I’m back at pace again, but I know I can’t drop any bombs from here on in. Just maintain, don’t get greedy, be who you are.
I see my family again. Another fist pump, more energy. I feel like I’m shuffling but the Garmin says I’m staying consistent. A couple of turns and with each turn I feel my hamstring twinge. I’m careful now to take it easy on the turns. There’s an older guy in front of me, looks like the last guy I can catch. I’m slowly closing in. I’ve been trying to do calculations in my head for the last 5 miles but now it’s time to just run. I’m not gonna go any faster, but I feel like I could keep this pace for as long as necessary. The older guy is coming back to me now and I finally pass him. I’m not sure where the finish is but I’m sure it’s close. I’ve heard about the finish up a hill and I’m there now. I hear my name from above. I’m all alone.
I’m pumped when I cross the finish. I want to scream. F*** yeah! F*** yeah! F*** yeah! Not very graceful so I hold it in. I’m so, so grateful to have done this, expressed this. I walk around in a joyous daze, wanting to hold on to this feeling for as long as I can. I want to hold on to it even now. It’s a powerful thing. Spiritualizing such a physical event takes faith, work, practice, discipline, stamina, joy, but most of all it requires grace, and grace we have in abundance. By definition, unmerited love, grace is given freely. I’m grateful to have experienced it.
Time / temp /dew point/humidity
7:30 / 62.8 / 60.8 / 93%
8:01 / 63.9 / 61.8 / 93%
8:31 / 65.1 / 63.0 / 93%
9:01 / 66.1 / 64.0 / 93%
9:32 / 67.0/ 64.9 / 93%
10:02 / 68.7 / 65.7 / 90%
10:32 / 69.7 / 64.7 / 84%
11:02 / 70.6 / 64.8 / 82%
11:33 / 71.7 / 65.2 / 80%
12:03 / 73.1 / 65.5 / 77%
12:34 / 73.5 / 65.5 / 76%