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“Bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible.” - William Shakespeare

How am I even still STANDING?
I'm not even sure where to start right now. Aside from being so tired that I'm not sure I still have command of the English language, I'm also completely overwhelmed with feelings right now. I'm simultaneously ecstatic that I finally accomplished something I've wanted to do for years, but disappointed that I didn't meet my goal time, but proud that I didn't give up, but guilty because I really wanted to give up... SO many feelings right now.

What I CAN say right now is that marathons are hard. I can only liken it to childbirth - it takes hours, there are usually unflattering photos of you, and when it's over, you want to laugh and cry at the same time.

Morgan Hill wasn't actually my first choice. Becca and I had originally signed up to do the Norcal in September, but since they cancelled the full marathon for this year (couldn't sort out race course issues with the city), they offered to transfer our registrations to MH, since it's the same company that runs both. It might not have been the wisest decision, with the Norcal being in San Jose and pretty much flat, and the MH winding through hills for over half the course. But we persevered and trained for it, and all of a sudden, race weekend was upon us.

Oh lordy. I was a nervous wreck the entire week leading up, and I swear I was shaking all day Friday and Saturday. Becca and I had pre-race plans that included picking up our packet, decorating shirts, and a mostly-Paleo carbo-licious dinner. (I will be pretty happy not to eat any sweet potatoes again for a while, thank you.) Last night, as expected, I had trouble falling asleep, and then woke up at 3:30 in the morning and couldn't go BACK to sleep for at least an hour. I finally managed to doze off for a few minutes before the alarm finally went off, after dreaming that we had showed up at the marathon and they were suddenly not allowing us to wear our shoes.

It was freezing at the start line, and I was very reluctant to give up my jacket, but we were told that it would be 85 degrees later, and I didn't want extra things to carry - I was already wearing a four-bottle hydration belt and a SpiBelt stuffed full of Gu packets. Before we lined up, we ran into Becca's friend who was volunteering and my friend who was also running his first marathon, and suddenly it was time to GO ohgodohgod.

It was an easy first 10 miles, but miles 11-16 wound through the hills and backroads, and that was HARD. In our longest training runs, the first 14 miles have consistently been easy, but that's because we trained on the same trail every week - and this course was nothing like our trail. If it wasn't a steep incline, it was a very loooong incline. Or it was a steep decline. Or it was not an incline OR a decline, but a steeply banked road. So we did a lot more walking than we'd wanted to, much earlier in the race than we'd wanted to. Yeah, that threw a wrench in our race plan.

When we finally made it back to civilization (after passing a particularly odoriffic cow ranch) somewhere around mile 17 or 18, it was pretty much flat, but the course had us running in direct sunlight, facing the sun. I was already tired (the miles were taking their toll), and the heat was making me lightheaded. I think it might've been the first time I ever got woozy during a race, and it was a really scary feeling. By mile 20 I could only run maybe a minute at a time because my calves and hamstrings were cramping up something fierce, and by mile 22, I couldn't even run at all - I tried to briskly walk as much as I could, but my feet were hurting and the lead feeling had set into my legs. I was all tears because I didn't think we were going to make it back in 6h30m, which was the course limit. Worst of all, I got to the point where I didn't even WANT to make it back anymore.

The last 6.2 miles of a marathon are by all accounts the true test of your might. However hard the first 20 miles have been, the last 6.2 are said to be exponentially more difficult, and after today, I totally believe that. (Not like I hadn't believed it before though.) It's not just because of the physical strain, but the mental one - I fully admit that the battle that I was losing was more mental than physical. Yes, my legs cramping up and my dizziness were a problem, but while my body had so little left to give, my mind had even less than that. I was tapped out. I kept saying over and over in my head, "There's nothing left. There's nothing left. There's nothing left." I was struggling to find reasons to keep going.

But I had one: Becca. Becca, to whom I dedicated my last 6 miles, was the only person who could have kept me going. She was counting on me too! I could live with letting myself down, but I would never forgive myself for letting HER down. Not when we've come so far and worked so hard. She deserved better.

So I picked up my feet and kept moving. One step at a time. The steps slowly turned into miles (the slowest, most agonizing miles of my life), and one by one, we counted down to the end. Three to go... two to go... home stretch.

The finish area was pretty much empty by the time we got there, and we were just about the last ones to cross the finish line before they closed down. BUT WE CROSSED IT. There were medals, icy cold towels, and water bottles waiting for us, as well as Becca's parents, who bought me flowers! (My parents were on Jolie duty and couldn't make it.) I heard the announcer say my name as we crossed the finish line and I totally lost it. I forgot all the pain and disappointment of the last few hours and I managed to crack a smile while tears of pain, fatigue, pride, and accomplishment rolled down my cheeks.

My official finish time was 6:31:21. I fully admit that I am disappointed that we missed our goal by fifteen minutes and that we even finished a minute and a half after the official course limit time. I feel that if I had just somehow found a way to rally my spirits, we might've been able to make it. It's on me, and I will carry that with me from this experience - there was so much that I should have done better in my training, and then maybe my body wouldn't have crapped out on me.

But what's the point in beating myself up about it now? (I'm already feeling pretty beat-up as it is.) The most important part is that we finished it. We set a goal, and yeah, it wasn't perfect, but we met our goal, and now that we know what we are capable of, we will do it again. But better.

I set this goal for myself years ago, and I finally did it. I'm no longer just a runner now. I'm a marathoner.

And now some pictures:

After picking up our bibs yesterday
Someone on the race course actually pronounced my name correctly today!!!
That was a total first - most people don't even try.
Aww :)
My mile dedications. Read more here.
Yeah, we were shooting for 6:15 :/
Groggy and bleary-eyed, but hopeful!
Yay! Now we can eat food!
My new bling
I hope my official race photos look badass. Can't wait to see them.

What's next for me? I've got the Mermaid Series 5k in San Francisco on November 10th, and the Summit Run half-marathon on December 8th (the day after my 30th birthday). And then I take on my 13 13's in '13. No rest for the wicked!

Hey, thanks for making it through this really long post, by the way.