Pat on the back: I am now 1/10th of the way through my 30 marathons by 30 years old goal. That sounds a lot more discouraging than it actually should.
The weekend started off pretty well. I went into work at 7am the Friday morning before the marathon so that I could leave at 2pm and still make it to the airport for my flight to San Francisco on time. However, after staying up late on Thursday night making sure I was all packed and my room was put together, I really had nothing to do before my 6:30 flight. I generally take the train to and from the airport, so I was going to be REALLY early if I left straight from work. So, in typical New Yorker fashion, I needed to find an active way to kill some time (even if we have an hour to kill, New Yorkers are always worried about how they can "productively" spend that hour which, in New York City, is a complete farce since it takes you 25 minutes to get anywhere anyway). I took the A train up to Columbus Circle and dropped into the Borders at the Time Warner Center, where I proceeded to walk around for at least 30 minutes touching books, reading jacket covers, making mental lists of books I want to read, and buying nothing. Productive, to say the least.
From there, I hopped on the E train out to JFK, still making it with at least 2 hours before the flight even boarded. No worries though, because Jet Blue's T5 is probably my favorite terminal on earth. It's like a small city within JFK and, if they had a gym in the terminal, I would probably get to the airport hours before my flight left (I fly a lot and I still love the airport). I sat in the main cafeteria, munched on a Luna Bar and some sushi, and read from my "Teach Yourself Dutch!" workbook (really, there's an exclamation point...Dutch is that exciting). Boarding the plane, I popped some Advil (I always get headaches when I fly) and curled up with my book. Upon arrival, Charnella, my roommate from college, picked me up at the airport and we went back to her house to chat. It was too late to do anything so we just kicked it on her couch, put in a DVD and went to sleep.
Saturday, we woke up and headed down to packet pick-up in San Francisco's Union Square. The expo was pretty exciting, although they weren't actually selling any gear at the expo (they were however selling it at Niketown, right across the street). I'm not a big fan of expos, so I grabbed my stuff, got some free Luna bars and a smoothie, and peaced out. It wasn't until we were back at Charnella's house that I realized I had been given a half-marathon bib. BLAST! I jumped in a cab and headed back downtown. Due to everything being electronic, the switch was actually not a problem at all, and I was on my way in less than 5 minutes. However, I DID stop by the NikeTown wall that had all the names of the marathoners and take some sweet pictures (which I will post once I remember to do it).
By the time I got back to Char's place, she was already gearing up for the Treasure Island Music Festival that we were going to later that day. Though I didn't participate in the pre-concert festivities, I did take some sweet pictures and chug a WHOLE LOT of water. We headed to Treasuse Island, did the concert thing (none of which included anything running related so I will skip that part for now) and I left around 7:30, missing MGMT (blast again!) but still managing to see Brazilian Girls (who I love) and the Streets (who I now love after the concert).
After getting back to Char's, I grabbed my stuff and headed to my friend Lenore's house. She was running the marathon too, so I figured it would just make more sense for me to go with her and not to make Charnella wake up at the butt crack of dawn to drive me into the most crowded area of San Francisco at 6:30am. I had grabbed a pre-race dinner of salmon over salad (which took me like 20 minutes of walking to find! I forget most cities aren't like New York and you can't just grab something from the deli every other block) so by the time I got to Lenore's I was pretty ready for some sleep. I laid out my clothes, jumped in bed, and passed out. It was the most ready for sleep that I've ever been before a marathon. The combination of jetlag, early morning, time changes, and music festivals had drained me of any energy...I barely wondered if this would bode well for me the next day.
Race morning, Lenore and I woke up (slightly tardy) and dressed quickly. By the time we got to Union Square it was only 15 minutes for the gun went off, and boy were we not alone. There were over 20,000 people (mostly women, this IS the Nike WOMEN'S Marathon after all) waiting for their chance at marathon glory. Lenore and I didn't start until at least 15 minutes AFTER the gun went off, and then spent the first 3 miles AT LEAST dodging slower runners and walkers. We were well under a 9 min/mile pace, and by the time we settled in we were still elbow to elbow with a lot of women.
Everything was going okay, except that my legs were so dead from racing so much the past month, so I already wasn't making the splits I wanted to make to try for 4 hours again. Oh well, I thought, at least the scenery was phenomenal. Really, this was the most scenic marathon I've done hands down. At around mile 6 though, there was a hill...like not even a hill, it was pretty much a mountain. I really try not to walk, but this hill was so steep and so long that mentally I couldn't even fathom running the whole thing. This hill made the hills in Central Park look like speed bumps. However, after this hill, the rest of the course was beautiful and after the first 13 miles it was relatively flat. After that first big hill I had kind of resigned myself to not finish under four hours so I just sat back and enjoyed the beautiful views of San Francisco.
Since this was my third marathon, I kind of knew mentally where the difficult spots were going to be, so I wasn't terribly surprised when around Mile 18 I wanted to stop and be driven to the finish, and at Mile 20 when I thought "oooh only an hour left of running!". The one thing I still can't seem to get past is the stiffness that sets into my legs at Mile 18. Maybe I need to train harder or eat more (I tend not to eat many calories before marathons because I have a weirdly sensitive stomach), or run more marathons. This particular marathon especially made it difficult for me to power through. Since, in Rochester, I had already beat my goal of running sub four hours, I sort of relaxed this marathon and didn't beat myself up when I didn't make my mile splits. This also meant that I was more lenient on my body, allowing myself to walk through aid stations, stretch a lot, and run pretty slowly overall. I think I was mentally exhausted for this race, after training hard for Rochester and then racing the three successive weekends, with two weekends being half-marathons, and one a PR, I was pretty spent for this marathon. All that mattered to me as I crossed the finish line and received my Tiffany's necklace (WAY cooler than a race medal) was that I had successfully checked California off my list. Three states down, 47 to go, and only 27 more marathons to go before I hit my goal.
Side note: Since the marathon, I have been receiving astonished looks from people when I tell them that my weekend plans included flying across the country, completing a marathon, and then flying back for work on Monday morning. I guess we all have different definitions of "a productive weekend."