It's been a few days since David and I ran the Pony Express Marathon. I think I have had sufficient enough time to digest everything that lead up the race and the actual day; and let me tell you I am pleased. I want to back track a little and talk briefly about training and goals. I know, I know, I probably should have done that before the race, but hey, I have said before there is nothing consistent with this little family blog we have. We try not to put to much emphasis on it since family time is what is most important for us, not to mention our days are cray-cray as it is so I am not adding one more to do list item to not be checked off at the end of the day. Haha!
Ok, training. I took a leap of faith and followed Dave with the Hansons Method for two reasons. The first being that we do not have a babysitter but were both training for a marathon, if we didn't want to spend the entire weekend running, we needed to enlist a plan that didn't have 20 mile runs. We could beg enough people to watch the kids (minus Asher) for a couple hours. Secondly, I have heard rave reviews from numerous people and saw how Dave shaved off nearly 30 minutes from his first marathon to his second marathon a couple years ago. However, I also saw the hard, hard work that went into training. The 6 days a week, the longish runs during the week, the workouts, etc. I was not looking forward to that and as you know my training runs were with the stroller a majority of the time , but I went with it and I am so glad I did. I have told a few people in the past, but I really was shooting for anything around the 4 hours mark, not sub 4, but 4:05 - 4:15. Huge window I know, but training for this as a mom of 4 is anything but conventional (to be blogged about another day. Trust me I have thoughts on this part) and I wanted to set a good goal, but nothing that would leave me disappointed on race day if I didn't come close to that time. 16 weeks came and went fast, but also slow. When that last taper week came, I was welcoming it. My body and mind was certainly feeling tired.
I felt that I did my best during training. I worked my butt off and wanted to prove to myself that I could do this, I could run 26.2 miles. Yet, at the same time I was incredibly nervous, immensely intimidated by the distance. I had those "Debbie Downer" thoughts in my head: "Even 4:15 might be a long shot Paula. Maybe readjust that goal to an even bigger window", "Maybe marathons are not for you. Do the Half Marathon and try your best at that", "It's going to be hot, you don't do well with heat" and so on. Dave was great at reassuring me as sooooo many others did too. I have to thank each person who encouraged me via social media, in person, by text that morning. It helped me A LOT!!! To know that others had faith that I could start and finish a marathon helped me believe in myself.
Now onto the actual race weekend! I helped at the expo on Friday and learned a few things that I didn't even know about the race. The biggest being that there would be no gear check. I found that odd considering that it was a marathon and I know many runners like to check things for post-race. Dave and I actually wanted to check our birkenstocks for after the race, but changed our mind after that info was given. I encountered a few runners upset by this fact but no one truly angry. Not to mention this posed a problem after the race with entry into the Beer Garden. We both had wristbands, but Dave was denied because he didn't have ID. Well, no gear check, no wallet, no ID. We didn't want to walk all the way to the car and back so we skipped the beer after the race. Hopefully next year it is something they are able to provide. The expo itself was small, but had enough vendors to intrigue people. Bib pick up was easy and quick although a plastic bag to hold the goods would have been nice (trivial I know). Best part of bib pick up was getting a bottle of Yolo Brew Pony Express beer!. I don't drink but I was pretty excited by this fact and quickly made the decision that if I survived the race (dramatic I know), then I would actually drink some. Needless to say I did have some and it was delish.
Saturday, Chris Malenab held a tweet-up at the expo. We were of course late and missed the group picture, but it was nice to catch some of our fellow runners to wish them luck and talk about goals for the next day. Sometimes the best part of a race weekend is not so much the race but all the social opportunities. There is just something about connecting with other people who genuinely want others to succeed too. It's a feel good type of thing and regardless of what someone's goals are, encouragement and confidence also comes with running friendships.
Sunday was the big day. The night before, my mom actually was gracious enough to take the 3 older boys to sleep over. Dave and I only had Asher to contend with the night before. I surprisingly slept better than I do most pre race nights, only waking 4 times. We got up around 5 am, ate, got ready and double checked that Asher had all his things for being dropped off to my mom's house. Once dropped off, we were on our way and I had to confess to Dave I was nervous, worried about my performance. I didn't want all those miles and hours to be for nothing. I started to put all this pressure on myself to do really well. Thankfully, again, Dave is really good about calming me down. We got to the race, saw several people that we knew running the race. We tried to remember to do the obligatory pre race selfies with others, but we are always bad at that. We did get to snap a pic with the other Pony Express Ambassadors and 9run6 crew.
After we warmed up, used the port-o-potties (so gross) and took pics, we headed to the start. The half marathon and marathon were all starting together and there were no corrals. It was interesting to see pacers with times from 1:30 - 4:30 standing near each other. I overheard someone look at the 1:30 pacer and remark "Those marathoners sticking with that pacer are hauling ass!" Yes, to run 26.2 miles in 1:30 would be a huge feat! Lightened up my uneasiness a little. So thank you to the random runner for the random statement. The race started a bit late, 7 mins, but it allowed my to readjust my shoes a few times. At 7:07, the race was underway and I immediately let Dave know that I wasn't going to look at my watch and that he needed to be my pacer. Surprise! I know, not cool letting someone know that while running the first mile, but I tend to go out to fast and crash and burn. As always, Dave was ok with that and let me know if we were "coming in hot" as he would say.
The first mile, mile and a half was a bit congested since it was the half and full together, but once the two distances departed from each other the road was clear. We did not have to do any weaving and we were able to take the tangents pretty close. We were carrying our own water bottles, but had decided to use their water stops, every other one. Kudos to PEM, there were water spots every miles for the first 14-15 miles. It helped since the course was full sun, a little wind and it was warm. Running along the river was nice, a different scenery that suburban streets that for sure. Some water spots had pretzels and oranges even. The first half went well, I chatted and Dave just said "yup". I'm a chatty runner. We finished the first half about 2 minutes under goal so I was feeling good at this point. We started to pass runners around mile 14, some which we knew and we chatted with some of them for awhile. That made the miles pass by a little quicker.
Now after miles 16 or so, water stops didn't seem so close. And orange slices were non existent. I kept searching for those orange slices. But none. Bummer. I had fuel, but I could tell that my stomach with the heat wasn't going to tolerate eating them as frequently as I needed to so I had to readjust. In reality I had to make a quick decision to under fuel and save my stomach, rather than perhaps give myself that "energy", but have issues for the last miles of the race and after. Would you have done the same? I don't know, but I did not want to spend the day with an upset stomach. As we approached mile 18 and on, we were leaving the river and heading into suburban territory. I had assumed that this would be where I would be strong or at least feel good because I actually like running on neighborhood streets. Alas, I was wrong. The Land Park area of Sacramento seemed to go on forever, with turns and hills! Ok ok not San Francisco hills, but when you are at mile 20-23 and there is any incline it is a hill. Dave and I were ever so grateful for our friend Stephanie who we saw on the course TWICE and Derek. Seeing these faces helped give us a little boost. Since the course is mostly along the river, spectators were very very few. The only cheering really only came from the aid stations. Seeing people that we knew helped a lot.
Here's where it gets a little sad, ok for me a little sad. Dave and I, whenever we race together, we ALWAYS finish together. When we say we race together, we don't mean that we register and then do our own thing, we actually race together. Many many races Dave has held back because he is a stronger runner than me. I however had told him before this race to please please leave me if I am holding him back because this race was for me to prove to myself that I could do it. He agreed and told me to do the same, but I brushed him off. He is most definitely a stronger runner than me, faster, more endurance, but on Sunday at PEM I actually had more "gas in the tank" than him. Around mile 18, I could see he was not feeling it. By mile 20, my feet were a little ahead of his. Right before mile 23 I pulled ahead and I slowly heard his feet distance themselves from mine. I knew that I had left him, but I told myself to just get to the mile 24 marker and wait for him. I did just that. I stopped and waited, searching for him. I wasn't sure how far behind he was. Then I saw him frantically waving his arms forward. I knew what he was saying, he was telling me to go, but I felt beyond guilty leaving him. He slowly came closer and yelled at me to go. I looked at him and knew that I needed to and with that I slowly picked up my pace and left him. This is the first race ever that we have not finished together and I hope the last.
With me running by myself, no orange slices to be found and me deciding to push through taking no fuel, I started to dump water on my back because I was really feeling the heat. I started to countdown blocks to the turns. The beauty of city running for me. I would tell myself, 4 blocks until turning left and start counting down. By the time I got to mile 25, I wanted to be finished. I wanted to walk. I wanted to curse at the aid station people yelling "You're almost there!" As I turned the corner onto L Street, I passed the only 3 runners on that street. The people on the side of the road were yelling "You can do it!" "You look strong" (suuuuurrrreee) "Keep going!". I used that to help pick up the pace and as I turned the last left to see the finish line with no one in front or behind me, I sprinted. Yup, I sprinted. Who knew I had that left in me. The announcer has to say last name 3 times to get it right. Made me laugh while I was running. I made the dash towards the finish and crossed that finish line not in the 4:15 I had told myself would be a far stretch for me to do, but actually under 4 hours!!!
Disclosure: I was provided a free race entry as an ambassador for the Pony Express Marathon. The opinions expressed herein are my own and represent my experience with the race.