The sun rises over Quarry Lakes in Fremont, CA. It's a little bit after 6am and Brazen Racing is getting ready for their Western Pacific Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K races.
The last time I decided to take on the marathon was in 2012. It was 98 degrees at this same location when I crossed the finish line 6hrs 30mins later. That year was a painful reminder that I was neither prepared to go 26.2 miles, nor had I pinned down a proper fueling strategy. This year I resolved to do better. Not sure how much better, but definitely better. Dreams of a 5hr finish were not realistic, but I was hoping for a 6hr finish. Actually, 15 minutes before the race, I was thinking of dropping down to the half marathon, but several friends who were also running the marathon told me to just stick with it, probably because they wanted me to suffer as much as they would...
The above shot was taken with my Fuji X-T1, but for this race, because I was going to be out on the course for so long, I decided to leave the X-T1 behind and just stick with my old iPhone 4s. And as a fellow runner told me just before race start, "Just go out there and have fun. Don't worry about the camera." Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone the thought of taking photos. In fact, I shot about a thousand pics with my iPhone while out on the course that day.
First photo of the day was at the starting line. It's just a little before the 7:30am starting time and I'm still not sure if I can last the 26.2 miles. I find my way over to the slowest pacer I could find, and she was holding a sign that said 5:25. I was hoping for a 5:45 or even 6hr pacer, but decided to at least hang with the 5:25 pacer for as long as I could.
Once the starting horn went off, all thoughts of not doing the marathon faded away and the only words going through my mind were "Here we go..."
And the race was on! And yeah, that's me in the green, running with the pacer and a fellow runner with the white cap and shirt. Yes, we started at the back of the pack. The temperature was probably in the low 60s at this point, meaning that we were in for a scorcher of a day. Even worse was that we could already feel the winds picking up. Brazen Racing's race director, Sam, had mentioned during the pre-race briefing that the winds were expected to be pretty strong and they figured they'd have to take down the finishing arch before it blew over. Yeah, it was gonna be that bad.
A volunteer photographer snapped this photo as we pulled through the second aid station on the course. And interestingly enough, we passed a small number of people who finally settled into their own comfortable paces. For most mere mortals, running a marathon is more of a test of endurance than it is a race for speed.
Here are the folks are Aid Station 3. They've got water and sports drink at the ready for us. Can't say enough about Brazen Racing's volunteers. They're the heart of the race experience, greeting us with warm smiles and passing on encouraging words as we head out on our journey.
Another Brazen Racing photographer snapped this photo of me. I don't remember exactly where this was taken, but it was definitely within the first ten miles of the race because I'm still all smiles.
At about mile 12.5, we reach the edge of the San Francisco Bay and the first turnaround. The aid station here was being buffeted by fairly strong winds, but they stayed out there in the heat and the hot winds to make sure that we marathoners were all okay.
It was a little over 4 miles to this aid station from the previous one, which meant the return trip to that aid station would be just as long. I stayed with the 5:25 pacer for about two miles or so, but then we started to fall behind in our pace and so I told her not to wait for me. I lost her about mile 14 and saw her disappear into the distance.
Just shy of the next aid station, I saw these words…
I didn’t notice them on the way out, but I really needed to see these words at this point. It was hot and the wind was hitting me from the side and that was tiring me out even more. I pulled into the aid station and the ladies there refilled my bottle with water and mixed up my HoneyMaxx sports drink with it. Afterwards, I headed off again.
The next three miles were rather tough. With the heat and the wind, I started to take walking breaks. And now the humidity was becoming a factor too as the temperature started to climb.
Somewhere after this point, I ran into a course monitor, as well as a fellow runner who was having trouble. So much trouble, in fact, that he was thinking of giving up and walking back to the race staging area. But when he saw me, he asked to walk with me, and so we walked for the next three miles or so. I had thought about leaving him behind so that I could chase down my PR, but thought against it because I know he would have stayed with me if the roles were reversed..
And so for the next three miles we talked about stuff that I can’t really remember anymore, probably because we were both tired from running and dealing with the rising heat. After about mile 21 or so, we started to alternate jogging and walking, finally crossing the finish line.
I’ve got a smile on my face and he’s grimacing a bit. I never did come close to my 5:45 finish, but still actually PR’d by almost 11 minutes!
Here’s me with my medal, none the worse for wear.
After this experience, I told myself that I’m done with marathons. This course beat me up once before in 2012 and it almost beat me up again. But one thing I did better this time around was choice of fueling, and mixing up my training over the past six months so that I would become fat-adapted. More on that in a future blog post, but suffice it to say, it all worked out really well. The morning of the race I took in about 500 calories for breakfast. During the race, I took in another 300 calories, and that was it! My Fitbit and my Suunto Ambit3 said I burned 3000+ calories during that run, but I didn’t feel hungry, and while my legs were tired, I wasn’t lacking for energy.
Of course, just a few hours after finishing the race, a friend texted me to make sure I was still alive. She ran the half marathon that day. She told me that she wants to do the marathon next year and she wanted to make sure that I’ll be part of the group that runs it with her… Ever get the impression that God reveals His sense of humor in the strangest of ways…?
Photographic gear used: iPhone 4s, Fuji X-T1 with 16-55mm f/2.8 lens