Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco

October 19, 2008

It was a hazy, morning in the streets of San Francisco as we gathered, thousands of us, at the starting line. It was still dark outside, but everyone was lively, excited and ready.

Let me back up a bit...

October 17, 2008:

On the plane ride to San Francisco Friday morning, I nearly threw up. I was sweating, dizzy and holding an open air sick bag on my lap. I was trying desperately to keep the protein shake, vitamin and supplements in my stomache as I thought, "breathe." I was about to give in to my fate when the planes wheels touched down on the asphalt just a train ride away from the starting line. I made it with my vital nutrients safe inside my belly. With a cautious smile, I neatly folded the airsick bag and placed it back in the seat pocket. I don't normally barf on planes. My nerves were trying to get the best of me.

October 18, 2008:

The Nike Expo across the street from the hotel was buzzing. We checked in and got our bibs, timing chips for our shoes and other goodies. There was so much to do! The Nike store had a giant pink wall with all the names of the 20,000 marathon participants. We spotted our names and took way too many pictures of our spot.

Thanks Stephon for taking these awesome pictures!

After hangin' out with Brian's family, we headed back to the hotel to attend the Team In Training pasta party. It was held at the Mascone Center, which is this HUGE venue in the heart of San Francisco. We were not prepared for what we were met with inside. As we walked toward the doors, we heard a roar. It emanated loudly from the doors as Brian and I looked at each other in wonder. What was going on in there?

We walked inside to find a row formed on either side of us consisting of all the Team In Training coaches, mentors, supporters, etc. cheering with noisemakers, funny hats, and various hoots and hollars. I couldn't believe how loud it was! We walked toward the stairs leading down into the dining hall and there were more! These people, must have been several hundred of them, lined the entire stairway all the way around to the front of the dining area to cheer for the marathon participants as they walked in to the dinner. I have never heard so much cheering! And it was all for us. It still makes me cry to think about it now. Brian's parents were at the entrance of the dining hall. I was so moved. Words cannot describe.

We ate pasta and bread as we listened to inspirational stories and funny anecdotes shared by the speakers. I enjoyed eating my guilt free carbs and even went up for seconds! Take that Los Angeles skinnies! I ATE CARBS!

October 19, 2008:

4 am - Time to wake up! We had already pinned our bibs on our jerseys, attached the microchip on our shoes (it keeps track of your time from the moment you cross the starting line to the moment you cross the finish line), and layed our clothes out the night before. We drank protein shakes, stretched and headed down to the lobby for the Team In
Training round up.

After meeting and signing in, we made our way to the start line, which was about 10 steps from our hotel. There were
THOUSANDS of people in the street. I didn't know if we would ever find SonHui (my cousin) or Brian's parents. I borrowed a friend's phone (Thanks Irene!) to call my cousin.

Thankfully we were able to find them before the race started! Brian's dad was wearing the jersey we had signed by our team. He was to be our good luck charm. We were ready! I even had my stupid water belt locked and loaded.

I have created a caricature of my self-doubt so I can overcome it. It is a little troll with green, wrinkly skin and a massive under bite. It’s snaggleteeth point up to it’s piggy nose in a comical way that makes it impossible for me to take anything it says seriously.

As the start of the race approached, I started to feel nervous as I looked around at all of these runners. “Who am I kidding?” I thought. “These people look like they belong here and I feel like a phony. I am not really a runner,” my doubtful troll said.

I immediately jolted myself back into focus away from those negative thoughts. I silenced the troll with the phrase, “I was born to do this,” in my head. This mantra really got me through, especially later in the race.

Because there were so many people crossing the starting line, we weren’t able to cross it until 7 minutes after the start of the race.

It was strange, one minute we were just standing there waiting to get started and the next minute we were running, slowly. There were trolley tracks beneath our feet, so I was cautious not to twist my ankle on them. Thousands of feet were slapping the pavement; the energy was incredible!

Mile 1-5: We were like a giant school of fish running together through the streets. With all the buzz and distraction I thought, “this is going to be easy.” There were people along the sides cheering, the scenery was beautiful, we ran by the piers and south along the coast. Coach Brett told us to go to a thrift store and buy warm clothes to wear until our bodies warmed up. After we got warm, we could just throw our sweatshirts and other items onto the sidewalk or in donation bins. They have a team of people who collect the clothing and donate it to charity. It was very liberating to run through the streets of San Francisco ripping my clothes off and throwing them on the ground. We stopped at the port-o-potties so Brian could take care of some business and I saw 2 of our teammates, Rob and Elaine. I was trying to get my thrift store sweats off, but couldn’t pull them over my shoes. I had to sit on the grass while Rob yanked ‘em off. “Don’t tell your husband I took your pants off,” he said. Here is a picture of the earlier part of the run. Note the clothes on the ground.

Mile 6-10: The first major hill on the course shot up in front of us. We were running with our mentor, Paul. He started singing and clapping his hands as we made our way up the steep hill. People running near us began clapping along and before we knew it, we were at the top. There were people at the top of the hill cheering for us. “You did it!” they screamed. The support from the crowds was like a wind pushing us forward. They spent their day standing along the side bringing people encouragement. I saw someone holding a sign that said, “Show us your sports bra!” The crowd was amazing. It made a HUGE difference.

By the time we got to mile 10, I thought about those people running the half-marathon. “If we were doing the half, we would almost be done right now,” I said to Brian. “I feel like we are just getting started.” With the Golden Gate bridge to our right, we ran on. It was beautiful.

Mile 11-15: We came to a spot in the course where the half-marathoners went one way, and the full marathoners went another way. This is the point in the run where it really thinned out for us. A lot of people were turning right to finish the half. Brian and I went left and continued our remaining 13.1 miles.

This is the point where I began to feel some pain in my feet. During training, we ran on the dirt as much as possible to protect our joints. The marathon, however, was all on asphalt. It was unusual for me to feel sore so early in the run. I ignored it and kept going.

Mile 16-18: Brian’s family, my cousin, SonHui, and our friend, Stephon were waiting on the sidelines as we rounded the corner of mile #16. It lifted me up to see them there. I was extremely grateful that we spotted them in the crowd. There were so many people there cheering. There were cheerleaders, various bands and musical acts, people handing out orange wedges, bananas, water, Gatorade… Finding them was a miracle. It was just what we needed to fuel us for the remaining 10 miles.

After quick hugs, we hit the pavement and we were met with the longest hill of the run. It was a 2 ½ mile trek uphill. I started to get tired. I could tell that Brian wanted to run faster, but I couldn’t make my body do it. I puffed up and up and up. Brian stayed with me and we made our way up. I saw a girl off to the side throwing up. Her friend was right there with her, holding her hair. I was touched, but had to look away since I tend to have my own stomach issues when I run. Thankfully, we found a gel that I can stomach and I stayed relatively nausea-free for most of the run. Mile 17 – It was getting hard. I could barely speak. “I was born to do this, I was born to do this…” Toward the top of the hill, there were people standing along the trail cheering as we dragged our tired bodies up the punishing hill. “You only have 200 feet to go!” They shouted. I was walking when I heard that, and it was just what I needed to propel me up the hill, I ran to the top with Brian by my side. The slogan was "Run like a girl," so they had signs up all along the trail with variations of the phrase.

Mile 19-23: In front of us was a massive body of water, Lake Merced. “Do we have to run around that thing?” I huffed. “Nah,” Brian said. “Oh, thank God,” I sighed. As we got closer, the realization hit us like a pile of bricks that we were, in fact, going to run around the entire lake. It seemed impossible. After a bit of swearing, I renewed my determination and we continued.

By this time, it was easier to keep running rather than stop. It actually hurt to stop and walk. We had a love-hate relationship with our walk breaks (run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute). I needed them so desperately, but every time we stopped to walk, my legs would send all the pain messages they had been storing up. Starting to run again hurt like hell. The pounding of the pavement sent shockwaves from my swollen feet, up through my thorny knees, and all the way to my hips. My hips moaned with every step. Around the lake we went. I was only thinking about the mile in front of me. I couldn’t bear to think that we still had 7 miles to go. I thought, “if I can run 20 miles, I can run 26 miles,…if I can run 21 miles, I can run 26 miles…” I kept doing this until the end.

Mile 24-26.2: A hill greeted us on the other side of the lake, much to my dismay. “I don’t think I can do it,” I groaned to Brian. “Come on, Baby!” he said. He let out a spirited roar and put his hand on my back. “Let me hear your roar!” he said. A timid “raaawr” tumbled out of my mouth and Brian started laughing. “That was FIERCE!” he said. I laughed up the hill with my amazing husband and didn’t stop to walk. We were now on the home stretch!

On the other side of the trail, which was headed for the lake, we saw our coach, Brett. “Alright, you guys!" he said, " You only have 2 more miles!”

I couldn’t believe it. We were really going to do this! I almost started to cry, but I knew that would consume valuable energy and I needed all I could get. My dumb feet kept flopping one in front of the other. I was unable to make any sudden movements. Even turning was hard. Any extra muscle exertion seemed impossible.

We came up on our last water stop. The ocean was to our left and the mist cooled our faces. What a beautiful day! My legs were swollen and I couldn’t believe I still had the strength to smile.

At mile 25, we saw Brian’s brothers. All three of them were there, and our two sister-in-laws were there with our niece and nephews. They were screaming and cheering so loudly, they almost blew us off the trail! Brian’s brother, Trevor, started running along the outside of the trail next to us. With a Starbucks coffee in his hand, he yelled, “I brought you guys some coffee…WOOOOOO!” Brian’s other two brothers, David and Kevin, were close behind Trevor cheering us on. We were almost there.

My cousin, SonHui was at mile 26 with Brian's parents waving a sign that read “Go Brian and Jamie!” Brian slapped his parents a high-five as we approached the finish line.

Almost to the end, Brian and I ran the last .2 miles hand in hand. As we crossed the finish line holding hands, I was hit with a wave of all the emotions I had been keeping at bay during the run. We just ran a marathon! I couldn't believe it. My dream ever since the beginning of training was to see Brian's face as we crossed the finish line together. All of the pain, the struggle, the icing and hobbling...it was all worth it. I had the priviledge of crossing the finish line with the man of my dreams.

I was crying and laughing at the same time. The San Francisco Fire Department was dressed in
tuxedos waiting at the finish line holding silver platters stacked with Tiffany’s boxes. Inside the boxes were Tiffany pendants engraved with runners on the front. I thought this was going to be a big highlight for me, but I hardly noticed. With a weepy “thank you,” I snatched my box and threw my arms around Brian’s neck.

WE DID IT! We ran 26.2 miles and raised $10,880 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Our official time was 5 hours and 13 minutes. Brian decided to give his necklace to his mom. We went through a sort of assembly-line after crossing the finish line. We were given protein shakes, t-shirts that read, “Finisher,” silver blankets for warmth and a TNT pin that said “26.2” on it.

We met up with our loved ones at the end and saw that Brian’s best friend, Adam was there with his dog, Augie. Augie was wearing a sweater that had, “Go Brian and Jamie” written across the back. Adam drove for 8 hours to be there to see Brian cross the finish line. He stayed for about an hour and then headed back to Arizona. We were so touched that he came all that way for this moment.

After the marathon:

We were freezing and exhausted. There was no time for napping, though. There was a victory dinner at 6 pm at the Moscone Center. I had no appetite, but tried to force some food down. Everyone there was hobbling around with the “marathon hobble”. It was so amazing hearing our teammates tell their stories from the day. We all got there together.

We were still buzzing, but ended up back at the hotel and in bed by 10 pm. WHAT AN UNBELIEVABLE DAY!

My only injury was a blackened toenail. It’s called “runner’s toe,” a blood blister forms underneath the toenail due to the continued pounding and pressure of running 26.2 miles. It is my badge of honor! I show it to anyone who can stand it.

Yeah! Rockin’ the black toe!

Brian’s dad went in for his first intensive chemotherapy treatment four days after the marathon. I hope he keeps that day with him as he recovers. He has been such an inspiration to Brian and me. Every time I felt like giving up, I thought of Rich and how hard he has to fight. We are all in this together. I can’t wait to be on the sidelines cheering him on, now. He gave us a plaque as a thank you for doing the marathon. It reads, “Our Family, A circle of strength and love…Founded on faith, joined in love, kept by God, Forever Together.” When he gave it to us, I was overcome with tears because I felt so blessed to be part of this family. Thanks Mom and Dad! We love you.

Thank you all for your support, love, donations and encouragement. Thanks to you, we raised $10,880 to help the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society find a cure for cancers of the blood. We could not have done this without you. I’ve learned many things throughout this journey, but the biggest lesson is never, never, never give up. I pulled strength from our teammates at Team In Training, our coach, Brett, our honored teammate, Audrey, Rich and Linda, and most importantly, my husband Brian. Thank you, Baby, for helping me to believe I can do anything. I love you.

Thanks Team in Training! You taught me how to Train, Endure, Achieve and Matter.

Go Team!

Here’s to:

Wearing heels again
Sleeping in on a Saturday
No more frozen peas on the joints
Eating greasy foods
Drinkin beer
Walking without hobbling
Making new friends
Believing I can

1 comment:

Stephon Fuller said...

Great, great story! You two are rockstars!