"what do you expect from me?...what do you dream in the afternoon?" -- amy seeley, from gravel lines (i listened to amy right before i boarded the shuttle. she is always a source of inspiration).
i had three expectations entering into big sur marathon.
1. finish the race.
2. see charlie.
3. be present.
and all three were met, to wrap up what i felt was, nearly a perfect experience.
tossing and turning, i finally fell asleep long enough to get in maybe 2 hours of sleep before my 3:05am alarm arrived on time. there was no resistance waking up; i was ready to run.
my sister and mom dropped me off at carmel middle school and i hopped on a bus, in the pitch dark, not able to think much at all and hoping the "right" person would sit next to me. the bus was almost entirely full and at the last minute, vince hopped on and filled the empty seat left of me. i enjoyed hearing his story and connecting with a fellow runner, 12 years my senior. (this was his 12th time running big sur, and had participated in dozens of other marathons).
they dropped us off and i stood there wide-eyed and somewhat lost, standing there in the dark surrounded by thousands of other crazy people waiting to run 26.2 miles at 4am. my immediate goals were simple: bagel. coffee. bathroom. & stay warm. it was an organized madhouse.
at around 6:35am, i started making my way to the tail end of the pack. i needed room to start at my own pace and get my head in the right space. half a protein bar, 2 ibuprofens, and my mini aquaphor in my tiny short pocket, and i was set. .......and..off they went... the group in front bolted towards the finish line while i waited 4 minutes to cross the start.
(i hate when my lips get super dry when running. i love aquaphor)
at mile 5, i felt my body wanting to run faster, but i convinced myself that i was "putting money in the bank" right now and didn't want to spend it all and come out with a deficit. it worked, surprisingly. and at around mile 6.5, i started chugging along a bit faster.
i felt good.
passed the 5:45 pace group. then the 5:30. and then the 5:00. ... and then hit the bottom (40 ft) point before the ascension up to hurricane point. a gruesome 520 feet climb for 2 miles. the watsonville taiko drummers energetically beat their drums in a beautiful unison that gave me an overwhelming sense of emotion. i "cried" (meaning, i had my one second reaction which looks much like the beginning of someone about to weep, minus the tears and anything beyond that first sound. honestly, i just didn't have enough energy to spend on crying even though the gusto was there).
and so it began - the ascent. i decided i would run the entire hill, if i could; and to my surprise, i did. i just kept trekking along.
during all my long runs leading up to the marathon, i had hit a major road block around mile 11, so making it up this serious hill, during what i thought would be one of the hardest points, was spectacular.
"remember to look back when you reach hurricane point to see how far you've come," vince told me on the bus ride. so i did; i turned my head and looked back at the colorful speckled row of people making their way up the same path that i had just taken and the path that the thousand ran before me. i appreciated where i had just come from, smiled, and kept going; there was still 14 more miles to go.
(i'm lifting my shirt here so they knew who to assign this picture to, nothing more... and wouldn't you say that old man next to be is looking pretty awesome? 2 thumbs up and a USA shirt-- yeeah!)
the winds up to that point were relatively harsh and they only got more intense as we descended back to 275 feet. hats kept flying off of people's heads and cold wind sent chills down my entire heated body.
13.1 miles and a time of 2 hours 10 minutes. on track.
(this picture had to have been taken before mile 16 b/c i assure you, i did not feel like i look here). correction! this was taken sometime between mile 24-26 because i don't have my shirt around my waist. (keep reading, and you'll understand) wow, craziness.
at around mile 16, hunger pains went into full gear and my body alarmed me of its need for food. with my half a protein bar already nibbled on and gone, i waited till the next GU station. (i really dislike that stuff, but decided i would take anything). i whispered "chocolate" to the old man distributing GU. i wondered if he felt sorry for me because i'm positive i looked like a mess. i opened that thing and swallowed it with a cup of gatorade and instantly came back alive. i grabbed a handful of apple slices and was off again.
mile 18-22 were hard. HARD. haRD. HArd. HARD. hard. hard. HARD.
my feet were burning, and my two index toes (that had already lost its nails from previous runs) were in pain. and the constant up-and-down hills were exacerbating. everytime i started ascending, i felt my savings being drained like the consumer debt in the US. (okay, i exaggerate). but, getting myself to keep going was painful. i walked a couple times for about a minute each time, and somehow i'd regain the energy i needed to keep going. it was one of those "dark night of the soul" times. 4 miles of it. but, i never wanted to give up. i knew i was committed until the end.
at mile 23, a man paced alongside me and asked, "how are you doing?" "i'm really tired," i quickly responded. he assured me there were only 3 more miles left and said i was doing great. he chugged along and i kept my eye on him so i could try to keep up with his pace. meanwhile, i felt my body telling me it was time to dip in to the rest of my balance. now was the time.
around 2.5 miles out, i felt a surge of energy bubble and took off my long sleeve to tie around my waist. at this point, i saw a little korean lady on the wrong side of the road looking desperately for her daughter. i waved to my mom briefly and threw her my shirt. i had just gotten into a groove and was in my zone, so kept going. remembering her words, "you have 1 mile left," my enthusiasm grew and my body kept responding.
about a mile later, there was no finish line, but there was another crazy fan (nat) wearing a shirt that said "i heart liz." nat started cheering and running alongside me. we huffed and puffed together and i "cried" another time, b/c i was so happy to see her and finish the race. she told me, "you have 1 mile left!" in between fast breaths, i replied, "but, that's what my mom told me a mile ago." she kept encouraging me while we raced towards the finish.
next, my sister shows up with another "go liz" shirt and starts running alongside and taking pictures. she can't keep up at some point, and we lose her. i sensed that we were so close that i cried once more and started sprinting towards the finish line. the crowds are cheering me on and i hear "GO LIZZ!" from a cocophony of strangers voices who had - in that moment - become my family. i see rebecca from the corner of my eye, but my eyes are fixed on the finish. my body won't stop until it's done.
(red duct tape is awesome!)
as soon as i cross the line, i lean over, hands on knees and breathe deep breaths. someone comes to help me get a mylar blanket and drink. i must look pretty out of it because he seemed concerned (or maybe he was just trying to hit on me, haha). either way, i'm grateful for help b/c my knees felt like they'd give out a couple times.
it was finished. 26.2 miles, done.
after celebrating some with my in-person love group (nat, steph, rebecca, sis & mom), i was on a mission to find charlie. he is the man that opened me up to running, so i had to celebrate this accomplishment with him. he was talking to bart yasso and a couple other folks, so charlie introduced me and they congratulated me on my first marathon. (how cool!)
(charlie, in between six beautiful women. ;-)
it was incredible to finish the most physically challenging feat of my life up to this point and to have my running inspiration congratulate me and be present to this huge accomplishment, along with people who i love and who i know love me deeply. people -- what a beautiful thing.
my #3 goal was so clear. how can one not be present to the needs of the human body and spirit when you put it through the kind of suffering that a marathon will do to you? you can't. i couldn't.
it needed drink; i gave it drink.
it needed food; i gave it food.
it needed rest; i gave it rest.
it needed encouragement; i encouraged it.
it needed love; and love abounded.
God's presence in this run enabled me to be fully present.
the wind. the clouds. the hills. the blisters. the sore muscles. the cold beer afterward.
the people. the people. the people. the people.
the endurance. the suffering. the finish. the inspiration. the passion. & finally... the love.
(the unofficial lizzy fan club)
truly, an experience that will continue to inspire me.
the images without the big PROOF across it were taken by the really creative and fun stephrue (who is also a source of creative inspiration).