Let's start with the following:
I LOVE OAKLAND CALIFORNIA. There. I said it. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area in that toniest of suburbs, Mill Valley, this is not a popular sentiment but it is one that I mention often. The diversity, the neighborhoods, the vibe on the street, the grit, everything about Oakland feels good to me. Now, I know, its got some serious problems, but overall, the city is AMAZING and gets a bad rap.
The Oakland Running Festival was started 3 years ago to help work on Oakland's image and bring a world class running event to Oakland. Due to other commitments, this was the first year that I was able to participate and I am so glad that I was! Oakland throws an amazing race. The course is pretty-- for an urban marathon-- challenging--with the run up through the Oakland Hills-- offers stunning view of BOTH Oakland and San Francisco. Like the city it promotes, the course has its challenges-- hills, tough pavements, tough neighborhoods; but it does an amazing job of showcasing the City of Oak.
The Devil Within
I should not have run this race. There. I said that too.
I was injured going into the race. I'm managed to do "something" to my right leg such that I was unable to walk or run a step without mild pain. Nothing screaming STOP RUNNING NOW, mind you. But a general Ow, that hurts. Gee that doesn't feel right.
So, I've finally met you, the devil within. You all know him. He's that guy who says, "oh just run the race." when you say, "there are other races and I'm injured and should save myself for those races."
He's that guy who says, "if you don't run you are fat and ugly and pathetic and a loser and not an athlete" when you say, "gee, I probably should concentrate on my A race later on." He says, "you can't just do the 1/2. that would be lame" when you say, "I could drop and do the 1/2; that would be better for me than nothing."
Who did I listen to?
Coach Jeremy. For those of you who have read earlier posts (Wildflower 2010 for example); you know that one of my old TNT coaches has just some way of motivating me. Maybe its his sarcastic sense of humor, maybe its the fact that he is young and fast and amazing and I sometimes feel like he looks at me with this "this old, slow, fat lady can't conceivably run on the same course as me" set of 30 year old eyeballs. But something about his taunt that I was "just looking for an excuse to sleep a few more hours" got my fat, slow, old ass to the marathon starting line. Or maybe he just gives a face to my devil within. . .
Anyway, I found myself on the starting line standing to another old Ironteam Alum, Belinda. When we finally do move from the Bay area, I can only begin to describe how I am going to miss my TNT family. Every race I go to. Every time. There are TNT alums on the course. Every race I go to. Every Time. There are TNT family posts on Facebook wishing us on. For those of you who scoff at the "charity runners" (like I used to in my pre-enlightened state) YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE MISSING. My TNT family ROCKS.
Off goes the gun. ..
and were off.
Prior to my injury, I'd been hoping to run a 4:45. (post injury I was hoping for sub 5:15) So I'd put myself just behind the 4:45 pace group thinking I'd try to stick with them for the first 1/2 of the marathon and then let them go in the second half if I needed to. A 4:45 marathon is just under 11 minute miles.
At mile 1 I looked down at my Garmin. They were posting a 10:09. Or, about 50 seconds faster than they needed to. I slowed myself down and let them roll into the distance.
About mile 6; the 5 hour pace team passed me averaging 10:30 miles. Or about a minute faster than you need to for a 5 hour marathon.
A little demoralized, but knowing I was doing the right thing, I headed out into the Oakland hills.
Miles 5-11 are a hill. Not even really a series of hills. Pretty much one, long, continuous hill. Never all that hard. Never all that easy. . . just pretty constant. When you get to the top, there is an amazing view of both cities and you start the down hill. What that constant hill does, at least for me, however, is tire you out. Granted I had the injury issue, but I found that on the way down hill from miles 11-13, my legs felt tired and out of sorts. The injury was screaming all the way down hill (more so than on the flats) and I was thinking OMG another 13 miles of this??? NO WAY.
Interesting enough, I got to the 1/2 marathon mark in PR time. . .
The second half of the marathon was flat. Here is where the supports really started to make a difference. Residents of Oakland dressed in their Sunday best. Residents of Oakland in their jammies. Kids. Old Folk. Fabulous support from Oakland Police Department and Oakland Fire Department and wait. . . who is that under that overpass. IT IS!!!!
OMG it is Mr. P. The original Oaktown Pirate who sits next to us at Raider's Games!!! HOW COOL IS THAT!!!! Represent Raider Nation! Just a shout out to Mr. P. but having you recognize me as the lady who sits next to you with the Patriot's cap put a spring in my step for about 3 miles!
Coming onto the finish line, I log my only complaint. ONE SHOULD NEVER HAVE TO RUN UP HILL TO GET TO A FINISH LINE. ENOUGH SAID. A hill at mile 26.1 is adding insult to injury.
I finished. Got my named called out. Got waived in by the Raiderettes and grabbed my HUGE finisher's medal. That was when the endorphins ran out and the injury kicked in and when I must give thanks to the absolutely amazing bag of ice that Kaiser handed out. I think there were 3 pounds of ice in there. . enough to ice my entire right leg from hip to knee. PERFECT.
I tied it on with my space blanket and kicked back to watch some finishers. One thing about Oakland. .. It throws a hell of a diverse marathon. Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian. Tiny to Great Big. There they were doing the damn thing and coming across the finish line. It was awesome to watch and awesome to be a part of.