Thursday, August 2, 2012

55.4 Miles of Pure Enjoyment

This past weekend was a mile marker in my career as an endurance athlete.  I am currently sponsored by a new organization called Worth the Hurt.  In agreeing to be sponsored by them I have dedicated my season to racing for the charity of my choice.  I chose A-T Children's Project, a charity I have worked with for the past 3 years.  Worth the Hurt, or WTH, asked me to come and run the inaugural ultra-marathon in San Francisco.  Ultimately we ran the San Francisco marathon from finish to start and back again, 52.4 miles of pure fun.  Now I know I titled this 55.4 miles of fun but I will get to that.

My wife and I had never been to San Francisco, so I figured what better way to see the city, right?  Kerrie accompanied me as my everything.  Officially she was a bike marshall on the course but she proved to be my biggest asset throughout the entire weekend.  I also had my mentor Tim Borland on my support crew. He has been truly invaluable to me for the experience he has given and he is the reason I got involved with WTH and AT Children's Project.

So I guess I can fastforward a bit. The Saturday morning of race day was interesting.  We had photo and media shoots, then a special panel discussion in which I got to speak to the crowd and share my story and sage wisdom when it comes to all things endurance.  Following the media session we had another photo shoot, then lunch.  The race was slated to start at midnight.  With the time change (going from CST to PST) and a quiet hotel room I was able to get to sleep around 4pm.

Both Kerrie and I rose about 9pm.  My prerace meal consisted of a hearty salad and water.  It neared 10:15pm and the fun was just about ready to begin.  Since Kerrie and Tim were bike marshalls they rode to the finish line where we were to start about 2 miles from the hotel.  I chose to ride a taxi versus Kerrie's handlebars.  I was at the WTH tent where most of the other runners were getting ready.  There was a true sense of comraderie and OMG in the air.  I prepped my Camelbak, fuel belt bottles, and had a cup of coffee.  I was pumped and ready to run, though I had no idea what to expect since I have never run this far in my life.

We did one more media shoot for one of our sponsors Celliant.  Then it was time to gather at the makeshift start line for the anthem and rules.  We were made aware prior to the event that our first marathon would be self supported, open course, run by headlamp and map, with four madatory check points.  It was dark, it was midnite, and it was about to get very real.

The start line
My plan as had been all along was to walk any hill, keep my heart rate below 130 for the first 26.2 miles, fuel every 5 minutes in some manner, and relax.  At the start line there was a lot of experience and only a couple of us(me included) that had never done what I was about to do.  At the sound GO, I began my trot.  The course started flat.  It was dark and about 50 degrees with a light mist. The first four miles were relatively uneventful.  We ran the coast a bit, turned and ran around McCovey Cove and Giant's Ballpark. Then turned inland.  This is where it got a bit interesting.
Did you know San Francisco is not flat.  I did know this but I did not know the severity of slope.  We began to work our way up into the hill that lasted about 2 miles at about a 28% incline. This was the most interesting two miles I have run/walked in a long time.  It was near closing time on the busiest bar strip (Haight Ashbury).  We went from gang territory, to gay bars, to gang, and back.  I only bumped into one drag queen, who was dressed quite eloquently.  Before I knew it I was at the top of the hill and about to enter an even darker area; Golden Gate Park.

For the next 6 miles or so we ran in the park, lost and unsure of which direction to go.  No lights, one map, and no road signs.  A corrections officer was overheard saying, "We should not be here".  But what is life without adventure?  Well I eventually found the way through the park with the asisstance of our random road crew and my wife manning the map.  We left the park and ran an out and back along the shore, where it got very cold and wet and all you heard was the sound of the crashing waves, couldn't really see them though, after all it was 3 am.  Following the shore line run and a missed turn around point, I hit check point 2 and told Kerrie let's go.  For the next two hours she and I were together, in San Francisco.  It was rather uneventful until the last 1/2 mile or so, when I knew we were close on time.  We were asked to be back to the start line by 5am because we were to start with 25,000 other runners on the second marathon. 
One done One to GO. Kerrie on the bike
I hit the gas, and started to part the standing around runners.  It was pretty cool to have people clearing the way ahead of you, I felt like a celebrity.  I got to the WTH tent with 5min to spare.  I was happy, pumped, and ready to go potty!  I was pretty ready to go right into run number 2.  I grabbed a bannana, restocked my Camelbak, fuel belt, and rolled out my muscles and started on run number two around 5:20am.  The second run was approached with the same run/walk plan.  Everything looked different.  Though on this run we ran an out and back across the Golden Gate Bridge.  The fog was pretty thick so no pictures were taken. 

I followed my plan well and was feeling strong, even to the point that I was running faster than my first marathon. I hit mile 19 (48 or so) and the wall hit again.  Yes AGAIN!  I had to slow which was not entirely bad.  Though I now faced the Haight Ashbury hill again only this time it went down.  I ended up walking the entire way.  My legs hurt, my feet hurt, and I did not want to fall and roll two miles to the bottom.  Once it flattened out I began my pacing and trotted in to a welcome finish line. Where yes I got the hug I had been waiting for for 10 hours.  As I said in my media shoots, my favorite part of any race is the hug that I get from my wife Kerrie.

Worth the Hurt Athletes
All in all this was an awesome event. Despite a couple of wrong turns that extended our run it was truly more mental than physical. I was very nervous having never run as far as I did.  The recovery sucks, but the run was amazing.  Having a purpose behind it meant even more.  I am racing for AT Children's Project and Worth the Hurt.  I have to thank Wendi Chapman and Allison Falk and their staff yes Gordon, Jenny, and Maddie too for taking care of me and making sure I got anything I needed.  Thanks to our sponsors CamelBak and Celliant.  Thank you to some amazing other runners that were sponsored along with me: Brian, Kevin, Meredith, Ashley, & Dan.  It was awesome finally meeting you and and an honor to have shared the time together.

Thanks to Tim for his insight, and confidence in my abilities.  He inspired me and encouraged me in every step I took and continue to take for AT.  Lastly Kerrie.  Without whom I would still be running trying to find Old Merchants Road.  I love you.  You are my rock and strength.  With you anything I do is impossible.  Ironman ain't got nothing on us baby. 
The best support crew ever.  Kerrie & Tim Borland

For those interested in the numbers:
1st marathon 29 miles:
4 hours 58 min
avg HR 133 burned 4501 calories

2nd marathon 26.2 miles:
4 hours 50 min
avg HR 144 burned 5060 calories

Second marathon, check!

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