Well. I did it. It was the craziest experience ever. I don't even know where to start.
We left on Saturday to head to Sacramento to pick up my bib at the Expo. I was so thankful for my family going with me. Their support was so important. Each time I would see them during the race I got choked up and so grateful to have them believe in me and cheer me in. I don't think I would have made it without them.
The weather was already starting to rain. I had been diligently checking the weather about every five minutes. Dreading the incoming storm.
We got to Sacramento and walked around the Expo a bit. Bib pick up, t shirt pickup, bag pickup. And I also wanted to buy some body glide knowing that chafing would be a problem with the rain. I also bought a CIM t shirt because I didn't like that one I got. (Icky green color). I kinda wish I had been able to attend the expo longer as they had speakers both on Friday and Saturday. Oh well, maybe next time.
We left the expo and headed for Folsom to check into our hotel. We stayed at Larkspur Landing, the same place we had stayed for my husband's Half Ironman in August. I had been second guessing the decision to stay near the start of the race instead of the finish but it turned out to be the perfect decision. You see if you stay in Folsom you get a VIP sticker that gives you access to a VIP warming tent and private porta potties at the start. This would be a God send the next day during the torrential rain and wind.
We checked in and had some time to kill before dinner so we watched The Holiday. My daughter, Katie, and I love, love love this movie. Then it was time for our dinner reservations at Viscontis. Some friends of ours live up there and met us for dinner. I was so thankful to have a great distraction as I was getting more nervous as the day went on.
Back at the hotel I took a nice hot bath and checked and double checked everything. I knew I wouldn't sleep well but I was thankful the night before I had slept great.
The next morning the alarm went off at 3:50. I ate some breakfast, had some coffee and got ready. I was ready a bit early so I just watched tv for a bit before the bus got there. The bus pick up was 5:15 and I knew the start wasn't that far. We had to stop at one other hotel for more people but we got to the start at about 5:40.
I thought I would go straight to the warming tent to keep as dry as possible before the start. Ha! The second I stepped out of the bus I was drenched. Even my shoes were drenched. Are you kidding me?
I had been dealing with shin splints for 2 weeks and had readjusted my goals big time. Ideally I would have liked to have a goal of 4:40 (doubling my best half time). Then I added 20 minutes so I was hoping for around 5 hours. I read about the pacers and the 5:10 pacer sounded like he would be fun to run with. He said he liked to laugh a lot had have a good time. Perfect . I figured I would like to have a good laugh during this. So I found the 5:10 group and fell into place.
The first 6 miles were ok for my legs. The rain was just a downpour. My plastic garbage bag basically allowed rain to run through the neck hole down my top, and I was completely soaked. We had several flooded intersections where the water was about mid-shin we had to wade/run through. Saw a police car in an inter section with water up past it's door. Saw some flooded porta potties (ick).
Miles 6-10 was getting harder to keep up with the pace group as my lower legs were very tight. I stopped to uses a porta potty and stretched while waiting in the short line. As much as I loved the 5:10 pace group I fell behind and knew I wouldn't be able to catch back up. What a fun bunch though and the pacer was sooo funny.
Miles 10-13 was when my left shin pain started to radiate up my IT band. I was heartbroken. I saw my family at 13.1 and started crying my leg hurt so bad I didn't know if I could finish. But I kept going.
I saw my family again at mile 16. I decided I needed dry shoes and sox. My family quickly helped me swap out my chip and I also ditched the garbage bag and changed into a dry shirt. Wow. I felt so much better. And off I went.
After this things changed. By mile 18 the sun came out. Hallelujah! I also saw photographers for the first time. I realized I was smiling. I almost felt giddy. I kept thinking "Look at me! I'm doing it!"
This is also where I saw the magic from the back of the pack. Several things came into focus for me. I had been so bummed at my pain, and how my time was going to suck. I kept thinking I didn't want to be last. Now I realized...who cares. Even the person that comes in last is still amazing! And still a "marathoner". Awesome. And soon I would be too.
I know magic was also happening at the front with the elites and the BQers and the people PRing. But I really felt so blessed to be there. I appreciated how beautiful the course was. The beautiful terrain, the pretty houses decorated for the holidays. Every kid I saw trying to high five, I went out of my way to high five them and thanked them for cheering for us. I thanked every volunteer that gave me water. I guess I tried to just embrace it.
At the back of the pack I heard other stories. A man with the 5:10 group was running something like his 94th marathon! Amazing! Everyone in the race has a story. First time. Trying to BQ. Overcoming an injury. Trying to PR.
There was a point where we ran by a nursing home and I looked up to see a man in a wheelchair watching from the window. I waved, he waved and cheered us on. Almost made me cry. I was blessed to be able to run. A few miles later there was another nursing home. Same thing. A man in a wheelchair on a patio with his caregiver so excited when I waved to him and he kept cheering and smiling. I was blessed to be running.
After that I knew I would finish. It hurt. I was in more pain then I thought it would be but I could do it. I was blessed to be finishing.
This experience was amazing. The weather was crazy. The training was long and grueling at times. It was harder than I could have imagined but the feeling at the end was more than I could have hoped for.