On Sunday, June 2nd, I became a marathoner.
I arrived in San Diego on Thursday with my family, and I had a couple days to explore and do some site seeing. As the team flew in from Colorado over the next few days, the excitement was brewing. Race weekend was here, and after 4 months, it was finally time to conquer 26.2 miles.
On Saturday night, we attended a special event that TNT races put on called Inspiration Dinner. This was the typical pre-race meal, and featured all 1,500 TNT participants racing in San Diego. After a few people gave some remarks, we were entertained by the keynote speaker, John Bingham ("The Penguin"). The night concluded with a father speaking about his son's diagnosis, and how thankful he was that 10 years ago it would have been a death sentence, but that is not the case today. Lots of inspiration, lots of excitement, lots of smiles, and lots of tears.
After dinner, I got the last few items ready and gave a bag to my family to have to meet me along the race route. We had figured out that they could see me at around mile 9, 17.5, and at the finish line. I said good night to them, laid out my race gear, and it was time for bed.
3:30 came, and we were up. We met the team in the lobby at 4 and took the shuttle to the starting area. We had plenty of time to kill, so we just sat and chatted as the time crept closer and closer. Finally, it was time for the marathon to start!
I was in Corral 8, so I had a little while to wait. Wave by wave, the runners got started. Finally... the countdown... 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1... GO!!!
Basically, the race was split into 4 sections for me, so I will recap all of them and save the mile-by-mile recap.
Start - Mile 11: The first few miles I made sure I started at a pretty slow speed - rule #1 for people running a marathon. I got into a rhythm, and I felt good! There were so many people running that it took a few miles for people to really position themselves. The course looped through Balboa Park then downtown, so it was a great tour of the city. Once I got to Little Italy, I started getting excited because I knew I would see my family shortly. The course ran right by their hotel, so they got to watch me pass from the front gate - I swapped some water bottles and sports beans and continued on my way, still feeling great!
Mile 11 - Mile 16: Once I hit double digits, I started feeling a little worn out. My breathing was still great (thanks to my training in Denver), but my legs started feeling heavy. I started feeling the humidity. I knew that the easy part was over, so now it was just about staying focused. I hit the halfway point and got excited to be on the back half. I still felt strong, but I was fading.
Mile 16-22: Then, it got hard. Once I saw my family at mile 17.5, I made another switch of water and sport beans, and they gave me words of encouragement. This stretch is when I had to start taking a few walk breaks, but kept trudging on. At about mile 19, I saw my coach Chris, and he ran alongside me for a few blocks, seeing how I felt. I told him I felt fine, but my legs were fading. He said a lot of people were feeling that way because of the humidity. He told me to keep hydrating, keep eating lots of salt, but the last 6 miles are just about getting through. I hit mile 20, and that's the first sense I got that this was actually going to happen. My legs started cramping at this point, going through stretches where they'd feel fine, then immediately start tightening and cramping to the point where I couldn't run. This repeated for about a 6 mile stretch.
The worst part of the race was a hill we had to go up at about mile 21- it lasted almost a mile, and it was death. By the time I got there, nobody was able to run up it - people would run in spurts, but after a few hundred yards, would slow to a walk again. It felt like it went on forever, but finally, I made it to the top. I knew it would be just about all downhill from there.
Mile 22-Finish: By this point, I just wanted to be done. But the more I would start running, the better I would feel. I kept drinking water, but I knew that nothing would really help any more - adrenaline was the one thing that was going to get me through to the end. Mile by mile passed. 23... 24... I started getting closer to downtown, and started picking up the speed a little. 25... I knew I was reaching the final stretches, and I was eagerly awaiting when I could finally see the finish line. A Team in Training coach spotted me and ran alongside, explaining that there were just 2 more turns, then a complete straight path to the finish line. My pace quickened and my stride strengthened. I was almost home. I finally reached the 26 mile marker, and there it was... the finish line. I bolted toward the end, raised my hands in the air, crossed the line, and became a MARATHONER.
I got my medal, gave a quick kiss to my girlfriend Kristen, gave my family hugs, and immediately went to find a place to sit down. I was tired, beat up, and beyond exhausted, but words can't describe the feeling I had. After 4 months of training, 2 1/2 years of running, and most of a lifetime of battling weight issues, depression, knee surgery, and several things that should have prevented me from ever reaching this day, all I can say is... I did it!
This post I made shortly after the race sums up my thoughts: