Happy Sunday Jedis! May the Forth be with you! I am feeling good flying HIGH on a cloud of endorphins from my race this morning! I finished the Tacoma City Marathon with a time of 3:52:01. I pretty much split the difference between my A-goal and B-goal for this race. I’m thrilled with my time: I gave it everything I had, I ran hard, I pushed myself through some difficult miles, and, most importantly: I beat Paul Ryan by nine minutes.
(All politics aside, it is a tremendous achievement for ANYONE to run a marathon, no matter how fast or slow–I don’t want to belittle Congressman Ryan’s athletic accomplishments, and his time is genuinely impressive! As for Mr. Ryan’s legislative accomplishments…that’s a subject for a different blog post; I just finished a marathon, this post will subsequently be a panoply of positivity, NOT politics. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming)
I woke up this morning at 4:00 am. I laid out all of my gear last night before I went to bed.
My pre-race breakfast consisted of the usual suspects.
The race followed a point-to-point course. I parked at the finish, and caught a shuttle to the starting line. Catching the shuttle and finding parking were both surprisingly easy! Overall this race was incredibly well-organized, and the volunteers as well as the participants were extremely friendly. I really appreciate when event organizers do everything in their power to make sure things go smoothly: good signage, sufficient porta-potties, clear directions, a logical gear-check system, volunteers who are happy to answer questions; these are factors that make the beginning of a race feel SO much less stressful.
The shuttle bus got me to the start line at 6:20. I had PLENTY of time to jog around a little bit for a warm up, and make use of the ample port-potty facilities.
It was about 50 degrees and overcast today. That is absolutely PERFECT weather to run in, not too hot and not too cold. However, it would have been a little chilly to stand around in teeny tiny running shorts for forty minutes at that temperature. Luckily, the starting line was at an airport, and they provided us with a heated airplane hangar to hang out in.
I camped out on the floor and proceeded to apply some anti-chafe cream to my thighs and armpits. I love that it is perfectly socially acceptable to massage lotion into your inner thighs in the middle of a room full of 800 people, as long as those 800 other people are also runners.
While I was wandering around (and thankfully NOT while I was applying lotion to my nether-regions) I encountered one of my personal heroes: Bart Yasso! The Tacoma City Marathon Association got Bart to officiate the race! Bart Yasso is the Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World Magazine (yes that IS a real job, and yes, if I ever take my PhD corporate, it’s the job I want…does Illumina need a chief running officer? Maybe Agilent Life Sciences?)
Bart Yasso invented my favorite track workout: Yasso 800s. He has run a marathon on all seven continents, he’s an Ironman five times over, he’s completed the Badwater 146 twice, and biked across the country. He’s also a champion biathlete and a SUPER nice guy.
He was posing for pictures and chatting with everybody. I told him that I quoted him to one of my lab-mates the other day. The undergrad in our lab was talking about how she goes running on the treadmill, but she isn’t a “real” runner. I told her what Bart has to say about that:
“I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.”
After my exciting celebrity sighting it was time to get lined up for the start. We listened to the national anthem, Bart counted us down from 10, and then….
And then I was running! I didn’t take any pictures during the race, because I was too busy experiencing the race!
The first two miles are basically a blur, we were going and going and then all of a sudden we were running over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I love running over bridges, so this totally charged me up. Galloping Gertie did NOT gallop, but I briefly wondered if all of the runners’ footfalls could set in motion the same sorts of resonance frequencies that cause the famous collapse of 1940.
After Galloping Gertie we were treated to a FAT hill. Delightful. However, the Tacoma chapter of Wear Blue Run to Remember (a running community that commemorates the legacy of fallen service members and provides support to their relatives) were set up on top of the hill with a HUGE array American Flags, cheering onlookers, and photographs of fallen soldiers that runners were paying tribute to. The outpouring of support was really touching, it made me proud to be an american, and excited to be able to share my efforts and endeavors with the runners I was among.
I really settled into my groove and found my flow around mile six, and rode with the flow for the next seven miles. We were ambling through the neighborhoods of Tacoma, and there were a fair amount of people out on the street cheering everybody on. I wasn’t running with music, so I just let my mind wander, and tried to say thank you to all of the volunteers. I was keeping pace with an older gentleman who high-fived every single young kid who was spectating along the way. Each time he did he would yell “thanks for the high five, you’re awesome!” I loved it–running is supposed to be fun, and he had a lot of joy.
Weird mental-mind-thoughts from miles 6-14:
–Tacoma sure has nice suburbs…could I live in Tacoma? NO you hate the suburbs, even if they are nice, you need to live somewhere rural, the rural-suburbs, the rurburbs, rurburbs, rurburbs…rhubarb? Man I haven’t baked a pie in ages.
–Find your feet, focus on your breath, strong core, high cadence
–So many people are wearing orange. Is orange the new color for running stuff? I like teal better than orange
–Gee, that “Wear Blue” organization was great, but it breaks my heart that those young service members died for a war with such dubious justification. If only we could harness the sprit of devotion that those young men had for their country and channel it into something PRODUCTIVE, America has so much misdirected potential!
–Halfway done? Thirteen miles to go? Holy cow, I think I can totally do that.
Miles 14 and 15 were hard. Mentally and physically. We were running into a headwind, and the terrain got pretty hilly. I had to tell myself to “change your story, Sam” multiple times. I kept thinking:
Ugh, my [insert body part here: left buttcheek, right achilles tendon, stomach] does not feel good. This is HARD. Twelve miles to go? That’s a lot. Why did I sign up to do this?
I realized I needed get back on track and stop the negative self-talk, and quick, for the second half of the race. I remembered a principle of Chi Running: body scanning. Instead of focusing all of my awareness on the part that didn’t feel good I tried to get in tune with my body and find some piece of me that did. In this case it was my shoulders–they felt nice and loose so I focused on that. Then I reminded myself that I was doing this Marathon to fundraise for the Seattle Humane Society, and that all of my friends and family were supporting me. Finally I reminded myself that I LIKE running: even if there WASN’T a marathon going on I would probably be spending my Sunday running, so I should stop whining about it, and get back on track to finish strong.
Luckily, just as I was working on giving myself a much-needed pep talk, the scenery shifted and we started running through Defiance Park. The park was beautiful, full of giant trees and interesting mosses. I found my flow again and cruised.
At mile 18 the old guy I had been keeping pace with turned to me and said- “you have such a consistent pace, it’s been fun running next to you.” I replied: “I love how you;ve been high fiving all of the kids.” It was a fun moment of connection: endurance events are amazing because they are highly personal and public at the same time. Every individual human runs the exact same route. However every person is running their own race, and their race is different from everybody else’s. My mental narrative and my effort is my own and mine alone. Every participant experiences the same overall path, but the way they tread it varies wildly; what’s important is that everyone is treading the path in their own way together as one.
Those were the crunchy-mental-mind-thoughts that saw me through to mile twenty. Mile twenty is supposed to be the darkest mile in a marathon. Stories abound of runners hitting the wall at mile 20. Barry Magee famously said “Anyone can run twenty miles, it’s the next six that count.”
I felt GREAT at mile 20. Maybe it’s because this was my first marathon, or maybe because I’m a non-conformist by nature. I’m sure my steady diet of oatmeal and catholic iconography helped.
I felt awesome. Mile twenty? I eat mile twenty for BREAKFAST. I decided to pick up my pace and finish strong. I glanced at my watch and noticed that if I could hit the last six miles at a 10K pace I could hit my A goal for the race.
I hit mile twenty-three and started hurting. I tried to focus on my breath and form as much as possible. I amped up the positive mantras in my brain. I called myself “sugar” a lot, as in: “come on sugar, three more miles, that’s just once around Green Lake, you GOT this.”
I pushed and I ran, and it was HARD, and it was exciting, and it was thrilling, and then it was HARDER and then, and then it was over.
My overall time was 3:52:01. The first time you do anything is a guaranteed PR, but I am very happy with that time.
After getting my photo taken and chugging down some water, I perused the re-fueling options available in the recovery area.
I decided that the whole potato would be the most efficient way to get some carbs on board. I’ve never seen anyone giving out potatoes after races before. Apparently they are high potassium. Are potatoes the new bananas? Are we trendsetters over here in Tacoma, or just weird?
After paying appropriate tribute to my Irish heritage, I found my official time.
Then I walked to my car, threw on a pair of Birkenstocks, and drove myself back to Seattle.
I loved this experience. Right now I am feeling euphoric, exhausted, sore, elated, emotional, hungry, a little itchy, but mostly blessed. It is a blessing that my consciousness ended up in this container, that I am able to run and able to ramble. I apologize if this blog post is disorganized, or overly sentimental. I wanted to write up my recap while the experience is fresh in my mind. I will be replaying the highs and the lows from this race in my brain for the rest of my life. This was my first full marathon, but it certainly will not be my last. Thank you for reading.
It’s time for me to go streak out some strains so I’m set up for work tomorrow, then dive face first into some carbohydrates and an early bed-time!