First marathon experience

I made it! I finished my first marathon STRONG!

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My marathon training ended up a week before, fortunately the business trip didn’t disturb the taper week and I managed to do the last workout by the lake in Rio. I’ve read a lot of taper related anxiety, I didn’t experience that. Due to the travel, I was pretty tired so I appreciated the time to let my body rest. I arrived home on Thursday morning and our flight to SD was Friday noon. So I barely had time to pack. We arrived SD on Friday afternoon. We didn’t do any sightseeing that day, simply went to the house we were staying, did groceries shopping and went to bed early.

Saturday: I went out for 18 min shakeout run to test the weather. I felt great. The weather was perfect. cloudy and not so humid. Then we went to the race expo by the harbor, got the bib and some goodies and headed home. We all took a nap. Then Tony took the girls to the beach and let me rest. I cooked dinner for the family (fish and veggies) and kept my dinner simple (veggies, oatmeal, and gigantic bowl of kabocha). I went to bed around 9pm, set the alarm to get up at 3:50am.

what I packed

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  • water belt. I decided I wanted to have access to water whenever I felt like drinking instead of at water stops. Other than convenience, it also helps to keep up the pace and not having to stop every 1-2 miles. I’d refill them as I empty them. I had two 12 oz. waters so I knew I wouldn’t have to stop for an hour at least.
  • fueling: I brought two Gu gels, 1 packet of beans, salt stick, and 1 bag of energy blocks. I planned to have 1 gel at mile 6, then 1/2 at mile 9, 1/2 at mile 12, 1/2 bag of energy blocks at 15, rest at 18, and beans for the last 8 miles.

Sunday: I woke up by myself at 3:45am, feeling refreshed. I had a good night sleep, rare for a first time marathoner. I had a big glass of water, 1/2 cup of coffee, went to the bathroom, changed the race outfit, prepared 2 packet of oatmeal with protein frosting to eat on the drive. Then I woke up Tony. We left the house by 4:40am. The race starts at 6am and my coral (19) started around 6:45am. But since the road would be closed at 5am and we are not familiar with the city, we decided to head out early. We arrived Fifth Ave and Laurel, the drop off area by 5:15am. During the ride I ate the oatmeal. I had zero appetite but forced myself to eat it anyway. I knew I’d need the fuel and it’s better to load up before the race than during the race (in my opinion). I said goodbye to Tony at 5:30am because I wanted to explore the starting area and visit the potta potty before the start. I wonder around, a lot of people stretching, chatting.

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I found an organic coffee track, really happy because I felt I needed more than 1/2 cup, so I got one.

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It was still early so I sit on the grass for a while close to my coral and the potty. By 5:50am, I went to the potty line, not too long actually. I heard some women chatting about the hill…. something like an uphill from mile 20-25???? WTF!!! She said she wanted to die.. but she’s running it again this year. 😯 I tried to ignore it.

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When I was done, I went to the coral. The excitement was real. So many people, over 30 corals full of runners. The half and full marathoners started together. I had a fig bar just before starting to top up the tank.

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miles 1-10: I crossed the starting line at 6:45am, texted Tony to let him know so he could calculate the time he’d meet me at mile 14 and 19. I felt great, so prepared mentally and physically to conquer the race. My strategy was to hold back the first 10 miles, very easy run. I did that and felt I was just warming up. My legs felt fresh and the runners besides me were great running buddies. I didn’t check my watch often but I could feel that I was averaging 9:30 min/mile, which was totally fine. I’d rather save energy for the last 10k and sprint it then than making the effort so early in the race. I had my watch on the HR display to make sure it was low effort. I maintained it around 145/min. I had my first Gu at mile 6. Then at mile 9 I had salt stick. At mile 10, I had 1/2 of a packet of Gu. Along the way, I had water and refill the bottles at mile 6.

miles 10-18: I continued to cruise and feeling great! Around mile 11 half marathoner and marathoners split. The course went around different neighbors and then the mission bay area. I passed by mile 14 but didn’t see Tony. I guess they had trouble finding a parking place. I was hoping to see them at mile 19 after the bay loop. I had 1/2 Gu at mile 13, and then salt stick at 16 and 1/2 Gu at mile 18. Feeling great still. I finally found a potty without line and made a stop around mile 12.

miles 18-24: coming back from the bay I knew the massive and long hill was waiting for me. I so wanted to see Tony and Sofia before that. Quickly after mile 19, I saw THEM, Sofia was holding the race map, Tony showing her that mom was coming. It was the best to see them at that point of the race. I gave a big kiss to Sofia and continued. We entered the highway… the hardest part of the race according to all the reviews I read. I mentally prepared for it. I told myself that the REAL race is about to begin. And it was true, the hill was continuous, but not as steep as I imagined. Running on the highway was not the best experience but not as nearly as boring as I thought. There were cars on the other side of the highway, and the adrenaline of the race kept me going strong. At that point, mile 20 or so, 8 out of 10 runners were walking. Before the race, I planned to do some walking on the hill if I needed, if I hit the wall, if I felt sick. But none of this happened. Although my legs were tired, my aerobic effort was still moderate. I knew I was going to finish the race, it was just a matter of time and how I finished it. I felt I had energy left to speed up but preferred not to during the hill, so I kept conservative with my pace and was grateful not having to walk. At this point, I had 2 beans every mile to have short target. I told myself that the real effort was up to mile 25. 3 miles to go, 2 miles to go, 1 mile to go! Yeah~ I made it to the “finish”.

Mile 25-26.2: The hill was behind me, the highway was behind me, I was entering home stretch. I could hear the finish line. I could see it. So close to the victory, although the whole 26.2 felt like victory. I picked up the pace and finished STRONG!!!

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After I crossed the finish line, walking felt more challenging than running. I could barely walk straight. I got the medal (the wrong one) and walked toward the finishing area. Called Tony, they were stacked in traffic. I kept walking and grabbed chocolate milk and some bars, but had zero appetite for anything. Two blocks later, I realized I had the half marathoners medal, so I had to walk back to the finish line and exchange the medal. Then continued to walk to get the finisher jacket. Walking was hard, my upper body was sore for holding two bottles. But I was happy, exhilarated, shocked by my accomplishment, and surprisedly by how good I felt after running for over hours.

I got the jacket and met with Tony and my whole family. Their support means a world to me.

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I hope one day, my girls feel inspired by their mom, try running, and get the chance of accomplishment only a marathon can give you.

I feel that my training was the main reason for the success. Runnersconnect is a great community. The coaches are responsive, understanding, know their stuff, and good cheering up. I enjoyed the training plan, especially trusted not having to run more than 18 miles during training, but to run 18 miles with fatigued legs. I never felt burned out, enjoyed 99% of the runs and never too exhausted.

Nutrition played an important role as well. I consciously increase carb intake, good carbs from vegetables and whole grains (kabocha, corns, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice), and lean protein (fish, shrimp, tofu) with minimum red meat. I never felt too hungry, even after long run days. I think eating well made me recover faster and run stronger.

I had a dream a year ago when I started running again, to run one marathon in each continent (America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia). It felt like a dream, but now that I’ve finished the first one, this dream could become true if I choose to. Next would be Asia. 🙂


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One response to “First marathon experience

  1. Pingback: Travel: San Diego day 3 & 4 (Safari Zoo) | Balance, Joy and Delicias

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