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It was 5:00am on Saturday July 21, 2012 and I was wide awake thinking about the half marathon in two hours.  I laid in the comfortable fluffy Hotel Indigo bed in Santa Barbara trying to get myself mentally ready for the Run Montecito-Summerland Marathon.  This usually happens to me. I get nervous the last few hours of whatever I’m trying to do. I never think about it days before. It’s always right before the activity happens that I get nervous. I finally got out of bed at about 5:20am and took a shower and got dressed. I wore my black yoga pants because I still haven’t found the running shorts that I’m comfortable with. I wore my new white thick and tight sports bra creamed in vaseline.  I put on my new and first marathon shirt that was given to me the night before when I picked up my bib and put on my Asics running shoes with purple shoelaces.  I was somewhat ready. I decided to go outside and get my poop loop out of the way.  Our hotel was walking distance from the beach. It was the perfect area in Santa Barbara. I ran parallel to the beach for five minutes. It was cold and very foggy but the breeze felt good as I ran.  I usually do not like running in the morning, especially this early. But for some reason this five minute felt good. Maybe it was because it was right by the ocean and I love being by the sea.  It gave me motivation and encouragement. Sure enough after 5 minutes, I had to go the bathroom.  There’s one out of the way.

For the people that know me, I know they wouldn’t be surprised on my conversations about poop. I’ve maintained for the most part a high fiber diet for the last 12 years of my life and it has led me to constantly keep an average of four poops per day. Don’t think it’s gross. I like that I’m not keeping wastes in my body.  It just happens more when I run. I’ve blogged about it before how I’ve had to create a “poop loop” before I start my run so I don’t have to stop once I start running. So now I run five minutes before I start my official run so I can get the poop out of the way. It always works.

So going back to my morning…we left the hotel after 6am and got to Cafe Luna before 6:30am. There was plenty of parking and it was not crowded at all. It was going to be a very intimate run!  There was a nice breeze coming from the ocean.  I decided to jog again for five minutes and sure enough I had to go to the bathroom again.  Once that was out of the way I began to stretch. I felt ok and was trying to keep calm and not get so nervous about the race.

7:00am had now arrived and William and I were lined up towards the front of the starting line.  All of sudden the race began and everyone started to run.  My heart began to pump fast. I became nervous.  Immediately there was an uphill on the next block and I became very anxious and nervous to the point I couldn’t breathe.  I didn’t want to stop to walk because I just started but I just felt stressed and uneasy.  So I stopped and walked and told myself to breath deeply and calm down. I felt I just needed a minute to get myself together.  I took deep breaths and tried to get myself focused by clearing my mind. It worked and I began to run again. I just tried to maintain a steady pace and follow the runners. At this point, William was a few feet behind me.

 

 

The first few miles were fine once I stopped panicking.  We were running parallel to the ocean and there was no sun yet.  It was so far a cloudy breezy day.  I maintained a good pace for the first three miles and William stayed behind me.  Once the third mile began so did the hills.  This is when William caught up to me and I started slowing down. I did not want to start walking the uphills. I did not want to get very behind where I was the last one running! I was so worried about that. With only 160 1/2 marathoners, I did not want to be the last one!  The hills got worse and I became slower. By the time the fourth mile was there, I was power walking.  William had maintained a good pace and he was not ahead of me. The hills were very difficult.  My surroundings changed from viewing the ocean to being with the mountains. It was beautiful in Santa Barbara. I was breathing the forrest trees and enjoying the scenery around me.  There were still runners around me and I thought maybe if I try to pace myself with others, I would get a little better.  There were a few girls around me that seemed to be at my pace so I started running  behind them. However I was still going uphill and my running didn’t last that long. I had to stop again to power walk.  People were passing me by a lot.  There was another girl I tried to follow who was wearing a back pack.  That seemed to work a little better. There was also a very old man running the whole time and I don’t think I ever saw hims stop to walk. He maintained his pace the whole time when he was going up hill. I thought that was very impressive and I wanted to be there!

So many things were running through my mind through this journey. I no longer saw William in front of me.  I started thinking about the Maui marathon and thought how in the heck did I commit to this!  Running these hills were very difficult and I knew that it was not going to get any easier in Maui.  I thought a lot about the marathon during my run. I thought how I always commit to things and then wonder why I do it. I reached the sixth mile and finally the hills started to go down.  Yay!

My legs felt so wobbly at this point. I was able to run once the hills were over but my body felt numb.  I just kept running. I was still around the backpack woman and caught up to the old man running. I passed him up!  I tried to maintain a steady pace in the sixth mile. I even got my first cup of water from the volunteers. My hips felt like they were going to collapse. I tried to walk a bit to rest them but that didn’t work. I think my body didn’t want to stop anymore. It was in running mode and if I walked, I felt all the body pains. So I kept running and then I started feeling stomach cramps. It started to feel like there were knots in my stomach and they got very painful!  I then walked and took deep breaths to see if it would go away.  I was irritated because I was finally running but had to slow down for my stomach cramps. Once I started taking deep breaths, it seemed to calm my stomach down. So there I went again trying to run again.  I was wearing my iNano and according to my time at that point, I was not doing so bad on time.

During the seventh and eight mile, I knew I was tired but kept running.  I tried to think of things that would keep my mind off the running. I started imagining my friends at the finish line rooting for me when I finished even if they were not going to be there but it helped me.  I also realized that it was my last day to be 32 years old and I was running a half marathon on my birthday eve!  What I was to start my 33rd birthday with already a half marathon accomplished!  I thought about William and how much he has motivated me and how together we help each other accomplish certain things in our lives.  I thought of how it would be great to live in a place like Montecito.  We passed through some grand estates and I hear that one of them was Oprah’s home.  I thought of my family and tried to imagine them shouting out my name when I ran through the finish line.  I enjoyed this portion of the run because there were hardly any runners around me.  Everyone had spread out throughout the course and I just had to make sure I did not take a wrong turn.

I think I finally learned during this time of my run what the point of all of this was. I started this race thinking to myself that I did not want to be last. Now I knew what this madness was all about. It was about committing to something and not giving up. It’s about finishing at your best with whatever it is.  It was not about the time I was going to do it in, it’s about having the strength to tell yourself that you can do whatever you put your mind to. It’s all in the mind.  So somehow I knew that I was going to finish the Maui marathon no matter what.

I made it through the ninth mile and my body was still going.  I don’t know how but it was very difficult.  Maui is going to be huge!!! All of a sudden another hill began at the end of the tenth mile. What the heck!?  Another hill?  It was not a short one. It seemed like it was one full mile that was going uphill. Why would they do this to us and put an uphill at the end of the marathon??  It wiped any energy I had left to give. I was so frustrated because I had already carried good pace the last few miles and thought I was going to finish in about two hours and 15 minutes. But this last hill blew that away. It felt like the hardest hill ever!  And then I hear the old man’s footsteps. The same one that I had already passed was coming back.  Oh no! Did it slow me down this much!  I was so exhausted.

Somehow I got passed that awful hill and there I went downhill. It seemed like this marathon was never going to end!  I thought I was near when I saw the ocean again but there were some turns and I was back in the middle of nowhere running all by myself. Just keep going Melissa, just pace yourself is what I was telling myself.  The 12th mile was the longest mile so far. I knew I was getting very close when I started seeing the marathoners walking towards me. This means that they had finished and were going home. I asked one of them how close I was to the finish line and she said that I was very close “Just past that turn and you should start seeing the big finish banner” she responded with a smile.  I was so close but yet so far away!  I wondered if William was there at the finish line waiting for me. I knew I was not the last one because I had again passed the old man and the girl with the backpack.

Finally I saw the finish line ahead of me. I looked for William and didn’t see him in the crowd.  Where was he?  I got closer and heard the people cheering for me. I looked up and I saw William running through the crowds trying to get close to the finish line.  I ran and ran and ran until I crossed the finish line!  There was a lady there waiting for me to give me my medal. William was there too with a big smile. I took the medal and took William’s hug. It was finally over!!!

I

My official time was 2:28:54.6. I did it in less than two and a half hours! No way!  William was very impressed with my time. He thought I would finish in three hours or so. According to him, it was a very difficult half marathon. Below is how my pace changed throughout the race.

I finished 6th place in my women’s age group from 31-35.  Not bad!  I was very happy it was over and felt good about it.  I can’t believe I’m actually running. I never thought myself as a runner. I was once told my an orthopedic doctor that I’m flat-footed with introverted hips and that I should not try running for exercise.  This just shows that sometimes people are lazy!  Any of us can do whatever we pleased  and I am proud to say that I ran a half marathon!

 

 

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“Do your best and forget the rest” – Tony Horton

4:40am.  It was still dark as my alarms goes off. I turned it off, go pee, and crawl back to bed under the soft, warm bed sheets.  4:50am.  The alarm called me again. I turned it off and continued to lay in bed.  4:58am.  I dragged myself to the bathroom to take a shower.  5:20am.  William got up and took a shower.  Once I was fully awake, I packed my extra clothes and made some oatmeal for both of us.  I was actually not nervous about the race yet.  Just very sleepy.  We left the house at about 5:50am to pick up our last trooper Mike. As you all know from previous blogs, I’ve used this past week to prep myself for the Merrel Down & Dirty.  This whole year I have been running with the exceptions of some gaps in February and March.  Then there is Mike.  Mike is one of William’s friends that has never ran or done any exercise.  He plays baseball in a local league and that’s about it.  He has been hearing about our experiences and William’s marathons for a quite a while and finally decided to commit to a challenge. However before today, he had only worked out for about 1 week and a half.  He just bought a membership at the gym and has tried to get himself in shape this past week for this race. William and I both knew that this was going to be very tough for him but all agreed that we would stick together and help each other get through the race.

We arrive at Castaic Lake early enough to check in, stretch and get our body somewhat loose.

Stretching 

It was very cold and we did not have the courage to take our sweatshirts off at first.  We left them on until about 7:45am when we had to check in our bags.  We then headed to the starting line right before 8:00am.  We decided to go into the first wave possible. Why not!  At this point I was eager and excited.  It was not until the gun went off and we started to run is when I felt nervous.  The first half a mile was cold and all I was trying to do was to warm up and create a nice slow pace to start easy.  I wanted to conquer this race and I wanted to push myself.

at Castaic Lake

The first few obstacles were easy. We had to go under nets and sure enough the steady incline began. The hills had started. I tried to keep myself at a good pace and for the most part it worked. After the first hill we had to do 10 push ups.  I have not done any for quite a while but still got down and heard Tony Horton’s voice in my head, “Do your best and forget the rest.” So I did and gave the hills 10 push ups.  There were some areas where I had to power walk up the hills.  Mike immediately in the first mile was out of breath and sweaty.  William and I kept ourselves near him so we would not lose him.  Mile two came fast and for the most part we running uphill until mile three.  The obstacles that we had were actually pretty easy. There was one where we had to climb up some walls and crawl in tunnels and under nets, and also climb some nets.  At once point we had to walk on lumber strips that were very wobbly. It was not a good idea to balance yourself on these when other people were on them. If someone fell of these, it looked like it would be very painful. There were volunteers there helping you but I did not want any help. I wanted to walk on these without any help. The yoga kicked in and I walked on them without any problems.  During this time Mike was a real trooper cracking jokes trying to stay alive.  Early in the race his lower pack was giving him problems. We stretched out our hamstrings a few times during the course to help out his back and it seemed to help him quite a bit.

Third mile had a nice view of the Castaic Lake. We were probably at the highest of out those hills and the scenery was very beautiful. By this time, the day was not as cold, the shine was bright, and we were enjoying ourselves on this picture-perfect day.  At some point in the fourth mile, the first mud lake was to be accomplished. We had to crawl in mud and the water was very cold.  After the crawling, my clothes became heavy with mud but it was not as bad as I thought it would be.  Once you kept running, nothing mattered. I kept thinking of Tony Horton’s P90x phrase, “Do your best and forget the rest.” That’s what I was trying to be the whole time.  I tried my best and did not think of anything else but the enjoyment of the whole race.  The fifth mile was probably my favorite. This mile was already going downhill. It was basically a trail with many switchbacks and nice scenery.  The sixth mile was back at the recreation area back to the event where it started.  The only other obstacle that stood out for me was the “slippery mountain.” It was where you had to pull yourself up with a rope not using your feet and knees.

It was difficult for me because I still cannot pull my whole weight yet and also one of my pinky fingers is injured so it was hard to grip the rope with my hand without causing pain on my finger. William and Mike both helped me get through this one.  The last obstacle was the big mud pit.  It was not so bad and I unlike the others tried to keep my face away from the mud. William went in there like a beast and crawled that pit very quickly. Mike did the same thing too.  The bottom of the bit was rough with rocks and rubbed on my knees.  All three of us crossed the finish line together.  It felt great to finish and finally get this race out of the way.  We were muddy and very happy.  We then showered in cold water and changed clothes and had a hamburger.

The above picture was after we were dry and changed.  You can see some mud on our faces. We did not have our cameras right after the race when we were full of mud but I’m sure some will show up soon on their website.

Overall the experience was most needed with me. Last year I had ran the Gladiator Run which was a 5k. I was so out of breath the whole time and had to stop and slow town the group. This time, it was a 10k and the hills slowed me down a bit but I had a lot more energy and my legs kept going most of the time.  It also excited me for the rest of my training.  I was worried this past week that I was going to struggle a lot on this race but now that I have finished it, it has given me confidence to continue to push myself and not give up no matter what obstacles I face.  Just pace and race…

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