I started race day with the “continental breakfast” at the hotel in mind and headed down at 3.30am to grab some coffee, a banana and see what else there was. That was all there was besides a couple of bran muffins which looked okay but not part of the plan. Back in the room I ran some water through the coffee stained coffee maker to clean it before boiling a pot of water for my instant McCann's oatmeal.
The weather from the balcony felt perfect and I took a couple of photos from for posterity. Once dressed, I headed to the start line with Melissa. There was a buzz in the air and waves 1 and 2 were already lined up in place bouncing around to prepare. It was still dark and the lines for the porta potties spread the width of the street as people made a last minute attempt to clear the lines. I sipped the other half of the orange gatorade I had poured in my bottle and headed to wave 4. The iPod Nano was a little tricky to operate once in place in the neoprene nike sport kit armband, especially since it lacks any kind of view panel for the screen. So you either have to shuffle the neoprene down while trying to keep the controls in place or take it out altogether. I soon got the hang of it and set it up for a marathon distance and selected my running mix carefully selected on Friday for the mission. (see the song list later). I had decided on the 9:09 minute mile pace group and our pace leader for the first half was Jim Lynch of San Francisco Road Runner's Club.
We set off at 5.50am as Dean Karnazes counted us down and with that, I had begun my first marathon. I hadn't calibrated the sport kit so the first thing I noticed was that about 75 meters short of the mile marker, the announcer voice cut into my second track to tell me I had completed a mile. In the first couple of miles I tested the pace feature and it reported mile times about 10 seconds faster than the GPS unit Jim was wearing. I hadn't finished setting my powersong either so when I tried it at mile 3 out of curiosity it just clicked and then continued with the current song. Hmph.
At around mile 4 or 5 we hit our first hill and whooped triumphantly as the group of 30 in the pace group reached the top. “100 yards to catch your breath” reported Jim as we raced to the second half of the 120 foot climb. Part way up the second part of the hill we passed a runner dressed like an authentic roman soldier including metal armor, helmet, plume and a shield carefully constructed around a waterbottle. I didn't hear whether he made it but I'd like to think so. At the first water stop, the Jim slowed to a walk and we all followed suit to take the opportunity to take in water and for some, Cytomax. Cytomax wasn't part of my routine and after trying it at the expo the day before, I stuck to water.
Shortly after these hills we went up another before we hit the Golden Gate bridge. The view is just breathtaking as you run across such a massive man-made structure like the Golden Gate bridge looking out to the ocean on one side and the city sleeping on the other. Mist was burning off north of the bridge but the crosswinds kept the temperature perfect for running. The turning point over the bridge fell at around mile 7.5 and I split from the pace group to hit one of the portapotties before joining them again at the water table a little further around the curve. Gel packets were being handed out here but again, I stuck to water and took a mouthful of one of the Carb boom packets I had brought with me. Today it didn't taste as good as it had on my 20 mile training run so I tucked it away and continued with the group across the bridge. Near the other side I met a runner called Paul from Nashville who has just moved to Chicago for his Masters at Loyola so we chatted away miles 9 thrugh 13. His wife is from Derbyshire, near my hometown in England so we were talking about England and how he is now a Preston North End supporter by proxy since he went to his first football match in England there and has a shirt.
We continued to talk as we entered Golden Gate park but I began to notice people cheering me on by name. When we watched the Chicago marathon it was easier to cheer for the people with their name on the chest so the sharpee was the best investment for my running kit yet. Every time we passed a group of people at least one person called my name. Paul broke off where the first-half half-marathon runners course changed and I ran on at that point. The 4:00 hour pace group was joined by the second pacer, Diane Ambrose at that point and Jim put on his headphones after a while to continue running in peace! I found that the pace began to pick up a little under Diane and after a while I slipped back about 20 yards.
I read in a Runner's world supplement on the plane that running down hills you should try to lean forward almost to the point where you fall to get a rolling motion going. Having only run hills one other time I put it into practice around the park as we weaved around the equestrian center and the pond towards mile 18. The trick worked and my legs felt much better for doing it but still each bound felt like a hammer in my kneecaps.
Due to the diversion, the first-half half-marathoners were finishing mile 13.2 just shy of the 18 mile marker and while it was great to see so many people finishing and celebrating their personal triumphs, it was a bit disheartening knowing that I had another 8.2 miles to go. I bounded on, losing more ground on the pace group as a whole but keeping up with a few other laggers. Melissa had arranged to get a bus to the 18 mile marker to come and give me a boost between 18 and 19 so I ran along with my head up looking for any sign of her. As mile 19 came and went I lost hope and began to wonder if she had trouble with the buses or couldn't get there in time after the start. Mile 20, nothing. As we took one of the traffic flow alternates by Laguna street I turned a corner to see Melissa come running up to me as I bounded down another hill gritting my teeth as each foot fell. Deciding that Melissa was just as important to my race as the water I stopped for a quick hug and a salty kiss before running off again. The sun had begun to come out as I had left Golden Gate park and it was starting to warm up making the run hotter and harder.
On the streets of the Mission, Hell's Angels (or motorcyclists in leather jackets at least) had volunteered to help control traffic and they stood proudly in front of cars ushering the runners on and cheering us as we went. I caught up with Jim again and we ran mile 21 and 22 together in silence as we listened to our music. At mile 23 as we pounded into another hill I finally lost my grip and began to feel a crazy pain in my left shoulder. I felt terrified because I had no idea what it was. I later learned that it was probably a spasm from hunching my shoulders forward as I run. I slowed to about a 10 minute mile pace and Jim disappeared in the distance. A little further up the road as I watched the course twist away to the south, away from the city we were supposed to be running towards, my mind caved too and I broke my stride down to a walk shortly after a marathonfoto team taking pictures. Walking along I felt mortified that once again I had come to walking during a long run and after every 100 yards or so I forced myself to begin running again before slowing back down to a walk. This continued until Illinois Street when we turned north again to head directly towards the Transamerica pyramid and my spirits lifted. I began to jog lightly but now a sharp pain behind my knees, more specifically at the base of my hamstrings held me back. I slowed to a walk again but this time at a faster pace and by the time I reached AT&T Giants Ballpark I started running again as I heard the crowd shouting my name again. The iPod began a premature countdown from 400 yards when I still actually had about 3/4 mile left to go to the tune of “Happy Together”. As the crowd grew and got louder, my pace picked up and as we turned the corner to the finish line I had hit a full stride and the faces lining the street were a blur. All around me I could here people shouting things like “that's it Adam” and “come on Adam, you can do it” and it was incredibly emotional to run with so much pride in your heart.
I stormed across the finish line victoriously pumping my fists in the air and yes, small tears filling my eyes. So much so I nearly forgot to turn in my timing chip at the exit as I raced for water, bananas and anything I could find on the tables at the end. A soldier handed out finisher medals as a young girl marked off the medal portion on my bib. A quick marathonfoto shot as a “Marathon Finisher” in front of one of the trams and I turned the corner to see Melissa waiting for me.
I had placed 1268 out of 4062 runners, 1028 out of 2706 men, 174 of 436 men aged 30-34 and my time was 4:06:52 for an average pace of 9:25! I had completed two goals in one foul swoop – to finish the marathon and then the secret goal of finishing in under 4:30. My 7.4 mile chip check-in registered me at 1:07:40 for a pace of 9:02 per mile, the half marathon time of 9:05 mins per mile and 20.9 mile marker at 9:08. This was clearly just before the physical breakdown of mile 23!
The iPod Sport Kit registered me at 4:07:15 for a distance of 26.91 so over the course of the measured marathon course, the uncalibrated unit was just 0.7 miles off. It also suggested that for my weight I had burned off 3844 calories during the race. This probably explains why after elevating my legs, a sports massage, plenty of water, a bath, a shower and some sleep I woke up feeling like the beast had awoken to devour anything I could place in front of it! At the massage tent I had met another guy from England who was celebrating his 53rd birthday with his 35th marathon. I was just glad to have finished number 1 in one piece and ready to take on my next challenge.
Later that night after some food, we took a sunset cruise around Alcatraz and under the bay bridge on the “Adventure Cat” catamaran before taking in the scenery from a window seat at Pier 39 for some excellent seafood. The next morning I woke up and my knees and hips felt a little stiff but after some moving around just the hip ache remained. Today, I feel much better and tomorrow I'm going to attempt my first slow recovery run of 2 or 3 miles with Melissa to blow away some of the cobwebs.
It was a great trip and one I will never forget. The memories of my training and determination, the preparation, the anxiety, the delight of finishing and the satisfaction of a job well done. Thanks for all your support and for reading along. I intend to keep on posting as I set new training goals and continue to learn about the wonders of running. I have included a snapshot below of the Nike+ website showing my pace throughout the various points of the race, all calculated automatically when I connected my iPod Nano back up to the PC at home this morning. YOu can clearly see the way my intensity (pace) was consistent throughout the first 23 miles before bonking at mile 23 and recovering for the finish!
I have some pictures up on Flickr of the marathon weekend and the marathonfoto people have some of the in-race shots I couldn't catch.
As promised, here are the songs in order from my iPod nano which helped me get through the most challenging four hours of exercise of my life:
Welcome to the Jungle,Guns N' Roses
Ring of Fire,Johnny Cash
Lady Marmalade,All Saints
A Small Victory,Faith No More
Drive: Nike+ Original Run (Continuous Mix),The Crystal Method
School's Out,Alice Cooper
Paradise City,Guns N' Roses
Seek & Destroy,Metallica
Yeah!,Usher Feat. Lil' Jon & Ludacris
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,The Police
Don't Stop Me Now,Queen
Pretend Best Friend,Terrorvision
Underwater Love,Faith No More
In Da Club,50 Cent
Somewhere Only We Know,Keane
Shorty Wanna Ride,Young Buck
Bend and Break,Keane
Give It Away,Red Hot Chili Peppers
Another One Bites the Dust,Queen
Can't Stop Now,Keane
Ice Ice Baby,Vanilla Ice
Fools Gold,The Stone Roses
Disposable Teens,Marilyn Manson
Dancin' Papa,The Kleptones
Fly Away,Lenny Kravitz
Epic,Faith No More
Crazy Little Thing Called Love,Queen
Sympathy for the Devil,The Rolling Stones
Every Breath You Take,The Police
Television, the Drug of the Na,The Disposable Heroes of Hipho
Midlife Crisis,Faith No More
We Care A Lot,Faith No More
Nighttrain,Guns N' Roses
Bring the Noise,Anthrax
This Is the Last Time,Keane
We Are the Champions,Queen
I'm the Man '91,Anthrax
Renegades of Funk,Rage Against the Machine
Till Kingdom Come,Coldplay
Happy Together,The Turtles
Speed of Sound,Coldplay
Good Riddance,Green Day
We are the champions, my friend