The expo: It was huge!! I didn't have much of a chance to browse, as I got there close to it's close on Saturday afternoon. But I did notice a runner's paradise of shoes, shirts and other assorted goodies stretching on for many, many metres. You have to walk through this area clutching your wallet tightly and shutting your eyes in order to make it to the packet pick-up without having to call Visa for extended credit. I've truly never seen so much stuff. And there were so many volunteers! They were helpfully guided me through the process of looking at the bib number wall and chip check-in. I felt like a race novice, because I'd never had to do those things before, and I feel fairly certain I was looking goggle-eyed at all the runners I wanted to be friends with in all their new expo gear the whole time.
After checking in to the hotel, I immediately tore into my race packet. In this case, it consisted of a shirt and a chip, along with some race-day instructions. In all the other races I've done previously, they've provided a variety of fun stuff - from food and gels to pens and coupons. This race I think made up for lack of stuff by providing such an epic expo, and for the beautiful shirt. I can now happily and proudly say I have two long sleeve technical shirts now.
Then I got ready far in advance for the race.
The next morning involved a delicious breakfast a couple of hours prior to the run. I had a waffle and a hard-boiled egg in addition to my usual cereal and juice, which was a terrific plan. I didn't have my customary stomach-groaning starvation pains midway through the race. Does anyone else get hungry about an hour and a half into running? Even sport beans don't fully conquer my hunger sometimes. Anyways, I had also packed some of those, as well as Clif Shot Blocks for the run, but I left off my hydra-bet and decided to just grab water and gatorade from aid stations on the go. Got dressed, lazed around for a while, then went to join the massive crowds at the starting line.
The race: Once again, I could not believe how many other runners there were. I heard the starting gun go off just as the pack of people I was in was arriving several blocks back of the starting line. After about ten minutes of slow shuffling forward, we passed the start and I broke into a run. I was loving the feel of the sun on my black tights and the sounds of the crowd cheering everyone on. I slipped in and out of bunches of runners, chasing down a man I was drafting. (I always do this, I pick a running friend who I think has a great pace and hang out with them for a while. In this case it was a man with black shorts, a water bottle on his back and a red jacket.) I felt like I was flying for the first 7k or so. Several times I consciously thought about pulling back my pace and assessing if I felt like I could maintain my speed. But I was completely comfortable.
It was at about this point that I made an amazing discovery. Bobbing over the heads of runners was a sign that said 3:15. I may have laughed out loud. I had thought about searching for a pace bunny prior to the start of the race, but knew it was utterly futile to look for anything in the thousands of runners lining up for the race. But I had found the perfect pace group by chance. So I sped up and joined them. They were doing ten and ones, which I don't normally do during a race, but since I was trying to be so good and remember that I wasn't going to push it during this race so as not to spoil myself for Big Sur. It was just what I needed. We ran along together happily, enjoying the views and sunshine for several kilometers.
However, as grateful as I was to the race rabbit, it couldn't last forever. Well, I actually think it could have if there wasn't an unfortunate crapping incident. Yes, literally; someone running in our little crew was having some seriously awful digestive difficulties. The worst part about it was not the smell, although it was beastly, it was the material running seeping through her tights and running down her legs. I felt absolutely terrible for her but I actually thought I was going to be sick and had to slow my pace. I don't think I was alone, because immediately this poor lady had a big cushion of space all around her. Amazingly, she didn't stop running. She just kept going and going. I don't know if she didn't know or didn't care or what. I think she must have eventually realized what was going on, because when I came across her again several kilometres later, she had tied her jacket around her waist. What a terrible situation -- especially for her.
Actually, I've never been in a more eventful race. I think possibly because it was the first time I've ever ran with others. Other than the above mentioned incident, there was a pretty scary fall on a bridge that pierced a runner's lip, some dramatic relay handoffs and plenty more people watching. I didn't see any Team Diabetes runners, but there was a ton of really enthusiastic Team in Training runners that I was really inspired by.
As for the hill of horror? I actually didn't think it was so terrible. It was the most scenic part of the race, so I kind of enjoyed it. And the grim reapers at the top (well, actually they were located a little ways after the top) were really nice. Overall, a great course and a great day for a race.
Unfortunately, not a great knee day. I have no idea what it was, because last weekend I ran 26k with almost no pain whatsoever, but my knee was killing. Then my hip was really aching and grinding. And then, suddenly and inexplicably, my right ankle hurt - overcompensation, perhaps? As much as I loved the day and the race and just being out there, I had to grit my teeth not to cry during the last 5k. I was gasping and taking 10-second walk breaks every 500 metres or so. But I was telling myself, "mind over matter" and "you can do this anyways." I sprinted down the chute across the finish line but I'm pretty sure the official photos will show the tears of pain in my eyes above my victorious smile. (However, how cool that the finish was inside the stadium? I felt like an Olympian!)
I still made my 3:15 time despite my pain, which rocks. Now I'm going to hit the physio HARD until Big Sur.