I woke up two minutes before our 4am alarm, and by 4:40 we were in line for the buses to take us to the start line, since it’s a point-to-point race. There was some confusion when it came to loading buses, but eventually we got on one and rolled out about 5:15.
The drive to Folsom seemed to take forever.
There was a lot of nervous chatter on the bus, but all I could do was stare out the window and think about how we had to get back to where we started. I’d forgotten my protein bar so I nibbled on a Honey Stinger waffle.
When we (finally) arrived, they told us we could stay on the bus (or drop off stuff and come back to wait) until 15 minutes before race time–it was in the 30s outside and that sounded appealing–but we were toward the end of a long line of identical yellow school buses and still had to go to gear check and visit the potties. We didn’t know how long that would take, so we took all our stuff and abandoned ship.
Once we realized how far back our bus really was, we knew we’d made the right call. There was no line at gear check and decently short lines at the potties, and by the time we finished there we decided to get back in the (slightly longer) potty line to make sure all was good. So we really didn’t have time to return to the bus.
And then it was time to walk to the start area.
The starting area was divided in half: the section on the right was for sub-4:00 runners and the left was kind of self-seeded for everyone else. It was a beautiful morning, but cold, and although I didn’t want to, I knew I would warm up fast so I ditched my throwaway $3 jacket and stood there in short sleeves and gloves. S is faster so we wished each other luck and she moved up while I hovered near the left side of the corral, toward the back.
They started the elites and faster group, then funneled my side of the street through the start line. And we were underway.
Remember our trip to College Station last year with S and several other BRFs, and the subsequent journey to Houston so one could complete the marathon after taking a wrong turn the first time? Well he had planned to run this marathon with us, but he had some setbacks in his training and eventually decided not to do it. But he came to Sacramento anyway, just to support us. And he was waiting just past the starting line to cheer.
The first few miles out of Folsom were more countryside than anything–farmhouses, horses, and fun smells. Which didn’t bother me because I owned horses for years, but I heard comments about the … fragrance.
Crowd support was clustered at various intersections along the way, really the whole course, and it was nice. We’d been prepped that the first few miles consisted of rolling hills–in some respects they weren’t as bad as I was expecting, but I never got the sense that the rolling hills comprised the net downhill they advertise. I mean, I can see it on my Garmin data, but I wasn’t feeling it during the race.
Speaking of the course, there were only ten turns the whole race, so we spent a LOT of time on the same road. Ironically the rolling hills broke it up a bit so it wasn’t like running on a road that disappeared into a desert horizon, and it wasn’t gonna be possible to get lost, but something about seeing Fair Oaks Blvd street signs for 16 miles kind of messed with my head.
J and K waited at about mile six, just before one of those ten turns. I was feeling pretty good, and it gave me a huge boost to see them.
I’d had to buy a new handheld water bottle a few days before we left because mine mysteriously vanished from Rogue. I doubt its disappearance was malicious, but when it didn’t reappear in time, I didn’t have a choice but to replace it. And while I’d rinsed it out before packing it, I realized during the first few miles my water tasted like plastic. Later J made a face and said that new bottles “taste like drinking Barbie.”
I felt good through 10K. It was still hilly though, and I couldn’t remember when it was supposed to even out. I also kept waiting for the steeper hill I was supposed to hate–but they all seemed the same. They weren’t any worse than hills we run all the time in Austin, but over every rise waited another one.
In between water stops, lots of folks had set up their own mini aid stations. One group of kids handed out candy canes (one of which I put in my pocket and saved for later) and another had oranges. Near the end a group tried to get me to drink their beer; another had donuts, and the last one I remember was a guy with Twizzlers.
Everything between about 10K and 21 is a blur now. I know I saw John at mile nine and I saw J and K at about 13.5, which was great timing because the race was starting to get a lot harder. I could feel the hills taking their toll and I knew I had been slowing down after the halfway point. A couple of times I caught myself doing the math and becoming overwhelmed by the remaining distance, but each time I talked myself out of that and focused on the current mile. Even though my legs were tiring and my left hamstring started having spasms at about mile 15, I feel like my mental state held up pretty well.
J and K reappeared at mile 21, just before we crossed the bridge over the American River and FINALLY turned off of Fair Oaks Blvd and on to J Street. Out hotel was on J Street, so I knew I was in the homestretch. I also knew that the last few miles, we’d hit numbered streets that basically count down from 58th Street to the finish near 9th Street. A couple of times after mile 21, I remember saying to myself, damn I still don’t see the numbers so I can’t be that close yet. But finally after the mile 22 marker I saw the first one. And a sign hanging over an overpass close to the Cal State Sacramento campus declared this the Final Four miles.
By now I was basically plodding along–running as long as I could, taking a short walk break, and doing it again. My hamstring was unhappy–in fact most of my left leg screamed at me. But I was close now.
I’d worn my favorite Army Ten-Miler shirt with NEVER QUIT in huge letters on the back, and along the way a couple of people commented on it as they passed me. At some point during these last few miles, a woman (I’d sort of slingshotted with her as I ran-walked) told me that she was struggling and almost quit, but my shirt convinced her to keep going. I lost sight of her before the finish, but I hope she made it.
I put my headphones away around 22 or 23 because crowd support was really great. We made a couple more turns–J Street two blocks over to L Street just before passing under a highway with 1.5 to go. I could see the Capitol building on my left and knew I was almost there. Then I saw Rogues on my left, more Rogues half a block further on the right, and J and K on the left at the mile 26 marker. I saw a sign saying 400 meters to go, and I pictured one lap around the track. Up ahead was an orange flashing construction light pointing left, and I knew that was my final turn.
A group of three runners was just ahead of me– I either had to hang back and separate myself from them to have a decent finisher picture, or I had to get around them. Somehow I found a burst of energy and passed them, which also allowed J and K to get good video and pictures themselves. Dammit. If I’m doing this, I want awesome photo evidence. 😄
And I was done.
I got my medal and found my friends. There were lots of tears. I hadn’t gotten emotional at the mile 26 marker like I kind of expected, and in that last stretch I was focused on this group in front of me. But when it was over and they were hugging me, I was practically sobbing.
K carried all my crap, J texted my spouse, and we got my gear check and my first-timer medal. And then the rest of the group appeared. They had all killed it–huge PRs, smashed goals, and a BQ. More hugs and tears, and more pictures. I turned my phone back on and it blew up–30+ Facebook messages and at least 50 texts. I felt the love for sure.
I finished about two minutes slower than I wanted to, and while my family is super supportive, they couldn’t be here. But everything else about this weekend was perfect. Gorgeous, cool weather. My Rogue peeps. My surprise BFs. Six months of training that got me to the finish line of a marathon.
At Saturday’s Rogue pep talk when Chris said, “You can’t do epic shit with basic people” on Saturday, THIS is what he meant. These people, y’all.