Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Race Review

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For the second of my back-to-back races last weekend, I ran the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego half marathon. If you would like a more in-depth look at the self-titled #Fontana2SD challenge, search #fontana2SD on social media. This year was my fourth consecutive participating in the event – three times at the half marathon distance, once at the marathon distance – making it the most repeated race I have done.

Expo: A

All of the Rock ‘n Roll marathon expos have the same feel to them and I am sure that is not by accident. With the San Diego edition being one of the largest in the marathon series, it makes sense that the expo would be large as well. And it was. Lots of vendors are spaced out over lots of space in the convention center making packet pick up and any additional shopping a breeze. You will have to navigate the expo vendors even if you are just picking up your bib though because of the “one-way” traffic flow.

Prerace/Postrace: B

Another point-to-point race but this time if you want to utilize the shuttle service it will cost you an additional $5 per person. With so many races offering free shuttle service, it is hard not expect the same here especially given the fact that there are not many hotels near the starting line but too many to count near the finish line. This race makes every attempt to seed runners in corrals based on time and while it is done on the honor system, I find most people play by the rules.

The finisher’s chute was very long and even more crowded than in previous years. The race finished at a new location with better access to the ocean but getting out was a daunting task. While in the chute, runners are offered multiple options of beverages and snacks – so much so that I feel they are one of the best in this area. Once free from the chaos, there was a very large party in full swing. Rock ‘n Roll does a good job of getting acts to play at their after-race concerts and this was no exception.

The Course: A

The only thing which keeps this course from getting the top score is the lack of a run along the ocean. Being in San Diego, one would expect to spend some time along the waterfront but it is not there for the half marathon. (When I ran the full marathon in 2014, there was a segment along the ocean.) The course takes runners through historic commercial districts as well as neighborhoods with charm. The residents of the city come out for the event with unofficial aide stations – offing everything from Red Vines, to Gummy Bears, to tequila shots – adding to the vast amount of water stops along the way. There are several smaller climbs and downhill segments to keep runners focused on the task at hand but nothing overly challenging.

The Medal: B

The medal is on the smaller side for races of this size and price point. Other than the size, the design is nice and a good representation of the course and the city.

Overall: A

There is a reason I have participated in this event each of the past four years. From the expo, to the route, to the medal, to the post-race festivities, this event is positioned well for newer and highly experienced runners alike. If you sign up early, or catch one of the many discounts during the year, it is one of the better bang-for-your-buck races out there. A bit of warning for those who find themselves waiting until the last minute to sign up, the entry fee can get pricey as race day nears.

 

*Full disclosure: I am a member of the 2016 Rock ‘n Roll Rock ‘n Blog team. As a part of my involvement, I am gifted free entry into all Marathon Series races. However, no additional compensation was provided and the views expressed in this review are my own.

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Los Angeles Marathon Recap

What a weekend! From being in a commercial, to working the US Olympic Team Trials, to the running of my first Los Angeles Marathon, I had a very exciting and eventful weekend. With all that happened, it is time to take a step back and reflect on the weekend that was.

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photo: @blingwhore

I finished Sunday’s race in a time of 3:57:27 and while not a personal best, I am very happy with the mark. I went into the race with a few goals in mind but with unseasonably hot temperatures in the forecast there was no reason to go out and try to prove something on this day.

I was once told, “don’t sign up for your next marathon until you have forgotten your last marathon.” After cheering the LA Marathon in 2015 I thought I would like to run it one day but coming off a disappointing race at the Phoenix Marathon a couple of weeks earlier, I was in no hurry to make that commitment.

Having not run much the second half of 2015 I felt like it was time to get back in the groove. I started training for LAM before I had signed up but I was not ready to commit. In fact, it was not until the final day to be placed in a corral that I finally pulled the trigger but even then I was not fully committed to running the race.

As I continued to train I started to feel better about my decision and by the time Sunday was here, I was glad I had signed up.

My training was great! I really slowed down on my long runs and was very consistent in my workouts. I  even logged my highest mileage month of 201 in January. I was headed into my fourth marathon on a good note.

Despite my training I was again reminded just how difficult the marathon is and around mile 21 or 22 I found the heat to be an issue. For the most part there was plenty of shade along the course but for a couple of miles late there was no relief from the direct sun so I made the decision to back off my pace and make sure I made it to the finish line with a smile. Mother nature helped out by keeping the marine layer over Santa Monica the final two miles and it was the cooler weather which allowed me to push through to the finish line even though I was ready to be done running.

IMG_4455I cannot understate the value of having friends or family along the course to cheer you on. Just knowing that there were friends at mile 12 and the #WeRunSocial crew was waiting at mile 18 made all the difference in the world. There is just something about that friendly smile and encouraging word which gives one the strength to keep moving.

Now it is time to start focusing on the half again. I have a personal record of 1:40 and I would like to lower that time this year.  I am sure I will run another marathon but I am in no hurry.

Oh yeah, and I got victory kiss even though I did not win the race.

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Runner’s World video clip

 

A 24 Carrot Experience

The weekend that was SeaWheeze came and went. After almost 11 months of waiting, it was time to relive what I considered my favorite race of 2014.

The weekend started with a late Thursday-night flight to Vancouver. From the airport I proceeded directly to the convention center via the rail where I met up with Lisa, Richard, Carmen, Mikenzie, and Tracy. Anticipating a VERY large and early crowd for the lululemon Showcase Store, they had gotten in line around 10:30 pm.

IMG_2260I was shocked by how early people started lining up, the first people are rumored to have arrived shortly after 9 pm, and how long the line was just after midnight.

A trip to 7-11 for coffee with James was followed by a trip to Tim Hortons with Christina and her friends to help pass the time during the wee hours of the morning. Between the four and five o’clock hours were the most difficult for me to stay away as I neared 24 consecutive hours of being awake.

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By the time six o’clock rolled in, I was running on pure adrenalin. The line was now wrapping around the convention center and it was estimated over 4,000 people were waiting for their chance at the exclusive SeaWheeze clothing line.

IMG_2272When the doors finally opened at 7 am, it was a mad dash for everyone to locate and secure their items.

IMG_2277Following shopping it was time to pick up my participant packet which consisted of a bag, water bottle, and runner’s bracelet.

IMG_2306I had time for a quick breakfast before heading back to the convention center to co-host the We Run Social Meet Up. Lots of people showed up but with so many people still shopping, in line, or with families most people were only able to hang out for a few minutes before heading off to their next destination. It was great to meet so many new people and see just how far the We Run Social movement has spread since its inception in May of this year.

IMG_2298By the time I finally made it to my hotel and was tucking myself into bed, I had been awake for 39.5 consecutive hours. Note, I do not recommend this if you are attempting to run a half marathon the next day.

Race morning I met up with several friends who were running the race, many of which were also wearing “TheGibblers” by PROCompression.

IMG_2330I had not run, at all, for five weeks leading up to the half marathon, again, I do not recommend this type of training, so trying to run for any specific time was out of the question. Luckily for me, the course works its way through beautiful downtown Vancouver before spitting you out along the Seawall, then through Stanley Park.

The views are beautiful. I am glad I was not “racing” because I enjoyed being with my thoughts and taking in the majestic views.

The Seawall

The final 8K (they use the metric system in Canada) was a struggle. My legs were tired, I was tired, and I was really ready to not be running anymore. Two things kept me going. First, I still had no clue what the medal looked like and secondly, I remembered the most amazing post-race waffles from last year and was super hungry.

The course itself is not one to try and go after that PR unless you are able to get to the front of the corrals. It is a very narrow course, especially along the Seawall where it is only four to five people wide and there is a very crowded out-and-back early in the run.

I collected my carrot medal, finisher’s cap, and post-race meal then met up with everyone else. The waffles alone are worth the trip. Yes, they are THAT good.

IMG_2363The SeaWheeze experience was winding down but far from over. Around 4 pm I made my way to Stanley Park where I flew through the sky on a trapeze, drank beer during the third, and final yoga session of the weekend, and carried on with friends during the three-band concert.

IMG_2429It is no wonder why this race keeps gaining in popularity. Lululemon pulls out all the stops and it is not just another half marathon, it is a weekend experience.

Vancouver is a wonderful city, one of the best I have visited, and if I am lucky enough to secure an entry into future SeaWheeze races, I will make this an annual trip. It truly is a bucket-list event.

Why My Worst Marathon Wasn’t A Failure

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Running isn’t basketball, football, nor baseball. The hard part about running is you train for one race and if you do not succeed, you do not get another shot, down, or at-bat. If I were to solely look at the result of Saturday’s BMO Phoenix Marathon as the result of one race, I failed. Thankfully, I was able to have months of successes leading up to my race to overshadow what, in the end, was a bad day.

The game plan was simple; avoid the urge to go out fast on the downhills, build speed as the race wore on and finish with a smile and a new PR.

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The race was billed as a fast, downhill course, ideal for setting a PR or even BQ.

One of the areas I worked hard on during training was being disciplined enough to go out slow and trust I had the strength to finish strong.

This was tested from the first step. The goal time for the first four miles was between 35-36 minutes. With around 400 feel of elevation drop, clocking a 34:39 was not a bad start.

Miles five and six presented their own challenge as I embarked on a 140-climb. I was not expecting this but it was gradual enough that it did not take a lot out of me. After the climb it was back to downhill running as miles seven and eight saw another 200-foot drop. Having erased the first eight miles in 1:08:52, I was just slightly ahead of the 1:09 target time.

The final major downhill came at mile 10 which accounted for almost 100 feet of the 200-foot decent leading into the 13.1 mile mat. Things were still on target as I hit the halfway point at 1:51:35, just ahead of the 1:52-1:55 target time.

A few of us had the same general finish time but were going to go about the race in different ways. So far, Carlee and I were holding to the plan of running people down at the finish line.

@CarleeMcDot
@CarleeMcDot

For the next several miles the race became easy. Mentally, I was just starting. The legs felt strong, my timing was correct, and I trusted my training which had gotten me to this point.

I do not remember much about the next several miles other than it felt like I was running into a stiff wind the entire way.

As I approached 18 I started mentally preparing for the final 10K of this run which would make or break my day.

Two more miles down and I was hitting the 20-mile mat with a time of 2:51:07.

I am feeling good enough and strong enough to go after a truly special time so I pick up the pace a bit more. By this time I am planning out my final 5K and when I want to go for broke.

As fate would have it, broke happened soon.

During my visualization of how the final 5K would look and feel, something no longer felt right.

There was a stiffness in my lower back. It was not a cramp, rather it felt more like fatigue. In order my legs started experiencing pain from the top down.

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@andreabarber

In a lot of pain, I made the difficult decision to pull up and stop. I attempted to stretch for a moment when I saw Carlee coming down the road. I decided I would wait for her and run with her the rest of the way.

After a very short amount of time, it was obvious that I was not going to be able to hold any sort of pace and I told her to finish strong and I shut my run down.

Numerous starts, stops, and stretches later I was starting to wonder if I was even going to be able to finish the race.

Having made attempts to run to the finish with the 3:45 and 3:55 pacer, my heart sank when my attempt to finish with the 4:00 pacer failed.

During my long stretches of walking I starting thinking back. This day’s race was a lost cause but I was not overly upset. During my training I was able to record new PRs in the 5k, 10K, and marathon distances.

One final stop with Emily just before the 26-mile marker and I forced myself to run it the rest of the way in.

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Photo by: @runblogaz

For me there was nothing special about this finish. I was disappointed the run ended how it did and that I was never going to get this run back. But sometimes that is how it goes. In the grand scheme of things, my time of 4:03:54 is a solid time and nothing to be ashamed about. For as much walking as I did, it serves as a reminder of how great of a run I was having.

I do not know what is next. I can say that I am going to take a few days off from running before easing back into things. I have had an amazing 17 months of running but I think it is time to let my body rest a bit. Then again, who knows, I might be running a race in two weeks. Like I said, sometimes that is how it goes.

Recap: Dallas Marathon (Half)

A year ago, the Dallas Marathon was going to be my first attempt at 26.2 miles but Mother Nature decided I was not ready for such a task and dumped ice all over the city, forcing the race to be cancelled. This year I backed down to the half marathon distance with visions of a new PR in my mind.

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@thefitfork, @keenones, @brendankeener

The Game Plan
There is a famous quote which goes, “A goal without a plan, is just a wish.” I had truly attempted to go under 1:40 three previous times in 2014, twice hitting 1:40 and once not coming close. This time, however, I was going into the race with a plan to ensue success. The plan was to build speed every 3.1 miles and leave it all out on the course over the final 6K. After 15K, it was going to be about how much did I want it.

Here is how the plan looked:
Opening 5K: 24:35-25:10 split
Second 5K: 23:50-24:05 split
Third 5K: 23:18-23:30 split
Final 5K + kick: 22:30 or faster

The Race
I had to fight the urge every runner has of blazing out of the gate. I started around the 7:30 per mile group, knowing I would not be starting out that fast. I went out at what seemed like an incredibly slow pace. It felt so slow, in fact, that I was worried I was ruining my chances at a PR in the first mile! My watch beeped, signaling Mile 1, but I was still not to the course mile marker. I stayed the course and continued to let people pass me in droves as I ran toward Mile 2. Again, my watch was not even close to the mileage marker on the course. I am already in my head thinking my race is over before the first 5K. Somewhere between miles 2 & 3 I stopped looking at my watch because it was so far off already and, honestly, it was depressing me every time I looked at it.

Actual 5K time: 25:18

I was not off my goal split by very much and did not know it. Maybe my race would have been different had I known I was actually running the race according to plan.

After crossing the 5K mat, I sped up a little. I do not remember much about the second 5K other than the thought of thinking I could make up my perceived lost time. By the time I crossed the 10K mat, I thought I was about two minutes behind pace.

Actual 5K Split: 24:05

I was eight seconds off my goal pace after 10K and had no clue.

Somewhere around Mile 8 my legs started feeling light as air. This was a very welcomed surprise and I starting thinking that maybe, just maybe, today was going to be my day. I started passing people regularly and felt like I was doing so with ease. I started looking at my watch again as I approach the 15K mark and tried to do the math of what I needed to make my goal.

Actual 5K Split: 23:26

I was just :04 off the goal pace, still with no clue how close I was and thinking I needed to make up time.

At one point I remember thinking I had a two-minute cushion and that if I could just hold my current pace, I would be fine. But I was already running really fast, for me. The lightness in my step escaped me somewhere between Miles 10 and 11. Running and math do not work well for me and somewhere around mile 11.5 I thought I was two minutes off pace and there was no way I was going to be able to make up that time over such a short distance. Disappointment set in like a ton of bricks. Honestly, I wanted to quit running the rest of the race and just jog in. I was so mad at myself for thinking I had not followed the game plan and more importantly, I had totally failed.

As I am beating myself up mentally, I look at my watch and see that I still have nine minutes to get to the finish line and sub 1:40. I give it one last push. As I crossed the Mile 12 marker i realized I would have to run a six-minute mile to have any chance at a new PR so I let off the gas and made my way to the finish line.

Finish: 1:42:13

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Looking Back
I missed my PR because I was weak mentally. I thought I was behind early in the race and let it get to me. I truly believe had I known where I was after 15K, this recap would have been about how excited I was to finish 2014 on such a high note.

I beat myself up over this race for the rest of the day. But with time comes reflection and learning. I was not ready for a PR Sunday. I said I wanted it, but I didn’t. Not badly enough anyway. But I learned a lesson in how to run a strategic race and that I need to be as strong mentally as I am physically to make a breakthrough like setting a new PR.

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@kelsiemh22, @keenones

There are no plans to try to PR again at this time. For now, I am turning my focus to the Phoenix Marathon in February. I have a goal time in mind for the race but it may not be realistic. That being said, I am going to continue training as as the race nears will reevaluate my expectations.

Recap: Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio

The 2014 Rock ‘n Roll marathon series came to an end last weekend in San Antonio, Texas. For me, it marked the 15th event in the series, earning a place in the inaugural RnR Hall of Fame.

What a journey it was.

The Expo
On Saturday, Competitor Group, the parent company of the RnR series, had a special ceremony for the people who completed the most North American Tour races. Four people completed 19 events during the year, all from the #sa2lv crew. They each received a “gold record” framed memento of their accomplishment. A very cool gesture by the folks at CGI.

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After giving the top four their just recognition, the organizers called for all of the people who had completed at least 15 races to go up on stage. I do not recall the exact numbers but there over 500,000 people who competed in at least one RnR event during the year. Of those people, only 27 ran at least 15. I think the official count was 11 of them are members of the #sa2lv crew. Crazy, right?

For earning a spot in the HOF, I received a backpack, vanity bib, $50 gift card and my photo on their Hall of Fame board which will travel to next year’s stops. Very cool for someone who started the year with the goal of running 14 halfs total this year.

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The Race
Going into Sunday’s race, I had already decided I was going to treat it as more of a training run. I have other goals I am working toward and going hard in San Antonio was not part of the plan. The weather was almost ideal with temps in the 50s and cloud cover. Personally, I thought it was a bit humid but nothing compared to last year’s 70+ temps with high humidity.

Since so many of us had vanity bibs for the race, we decided a pre-race photo at the start line would be a nice way to capture the moment. In true #sa2lv fashion, several people were late and missed the photo. It was not a surprise to anyone and it is the type of thing that makes this group so special. We have grown like a family and we just know each other.

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I started the race running with Nic but after a mile or so we parted ways. For the next couple of miles I came across several of my friends, including Kelvin and Justin who were jamming away to their boom box and disco music.

Somewhere around mile three I came across Carl and Ilona Marino who were also running their 15th RnR race of the year. I had met them briefly the day before and decided to hang with them for awhile.

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I remembered there being a formidable hill around mile six last year but did not remember it being as long as it was. A couple of miles after conquering the hills, I mentioned to my new friends that I was so busy thinking about making my flight last year, I did not remember any of this part of the course. In my defense, it was a very forgettable few miles through some residential neighborhoods.

Because I was not running down a specific time, I rarely looked at my watch but knew I was moving along at a faster clip than I had originally planned but it was ok because I never felt as if I was pushing the pace.

During the final mile I started thinking back to where I was a year ago and the journey I had taken since. There was no wave of emotions as we neared the finish line but it was definitely a time of reflection.

Several #sa2lv members met after the race, talked about 2014 and what was next. Then in true gypsy fashion, we all parted our separate ways. Until next time…

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No, come at ME bro…

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Two days. That is how long it took for it to set in that I am now officially a Marathoner. I had walked to a coffee shop in Marina del Rey Tuesday after completing the 2014 Rock ‘n Roll San Diego marathon and while sipping on my vanilla latte a big smile came across my face. It had finally set in. Not only did I complete my first marathon but I reached my goal of finishing in under four hours.

Race week I reached out to RunEMZ for some race-day advice. She had been with me throughout my 11 weeks of training and was my accountability partner. We exchanged emails to came up with a game plan since it was my first go at this distance. The plan was to run between 8:40-8:55 minute miles until mile 13 and then evaluate where I was and how I feeling from there to make sure I was not doing something I would regret in miles 22-26. From there until mile 21 keep the pace in the 8:30-8:45 range at which point I was going to have to dig deep and it would become an issue of how badly did I want my sub 4:00 finish.

I am so thankful for all my friends who were at the race because they kept my mind off what was about to go down as we took prerace pictures in the starting corral. It was also really nice to have James running with me. James is part of the Thursday Night Social Run club i frequently join. We have run several times and it was helpful to have someone familiar with me.

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sa2lv member Wes who was also running his first marathon.

I knew I could run all 26.2 miles but my fear was I did not want to do something stupid during the first 4-5 miles of the race which would prevent me from reaching my goal. I did not want to go out too fast at the same time, I did not want to go out too slow either. So there it was, I was surrounded by friends, had a game plan, and was running with a friend. I was set up for success. All I had to do was execute, trust the training, and, most importantly, believe I could do it.

Mile 1 – 8:54
Mile 2 – 8:31
Mile 3 – 8:25
Mile 4 – 8:16
Mile 5 – 8:26
Mile 6 – 8:21
Mile 7 – 8:56
Mile 8 – 8:51

So far, so good. Mile 4 would be my fastest mile of the race but overall I was staying really close to the goal pace and was settling in for the long distance.

Mile 9 – 8:42
Mile 10 – 8:26
Mile 11 – 8:32
Mile 12 – 8:26
Mile 13 – 8:29
Half – 1:53

I was right were I wanted to be. I would be lying if I did not say when I crossed the track pad for the half that I was thinking how nice it would have been to be done with the run. But I was committed to the full at this point and had to get back to downtown somehow. I still felt really strong at this point and had built up a 7-minute cushion toward my sub 4 finish and was looking really good to hit my BHAG goal of 3:45.

Mile 14 – 8:34
Mile 15 – 8:34
Mile 16 – 8:41
Mile 17 – 8:50

In my training runs, mile 16 is where I started to loose my ability to hold the pace I needed to reach my goals. By this point I had built up almost a 9-minute buffer toward my desired finish time. I sent EMZ a text at mile 17 to update her on my progress and she said I was right on pace. But the race was just beginning.

Mile 18 – 8:44
Mile 19 – 9:03
Mile 20 – 8:57

At this point I was 2:53 minutes into my run, owning the course, and all that stood between me and the finish line was the most insane hill.

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This hill was so bad, it talked smack.

Mile 21 – 9:24
Mile 22 – 10:06

Both these miles were the same hill. It absolutely wore me out. I refused to walk any part of the course and there was no relief from the beating sun out on the open road. It was at this point I felt the hopes of a 3:45 slip through my grasp. I was exhausted.

Mile 23 – 9:42

I sent EMZ a text at this point telling her I was fading fast. I had just passed a water station and was already thirsty again. I needed water in the worst way. It was a horrible feeling to know I had just downed two cups of Gatorade and a cup of water and less than a quarter mile later was in dire need of fluids. I became a slave to my watch. All I could think was, “how quickly did I need to go to make it home in under four hours?”

What goes up, must come down and from this point on, the course was all downhill. My goal in sight. All I had to do was avoid walking and not let my miles take longer than 10 minutes but that would be easier said than done.

Mile 24 – 9:46
Mile 25 – 9:22

I was 1.2 miles away from my goal and getting back to sub nine-minute miles was not possible but I did not need sub-nine minute miles, I just needed to hold on to what I had been doing.

Then at around 25.5, my right hamstring cramped. Panic quickly set in. I stretched it out and started to run again only for it to cramp up again. I looked at my watch and started to formulate an emergency plan if I could not run and had to walk the rest of the course. I had about 14 minutes to get across the finish line. One more quick attempt to stretch out my hamstring was successful and I was off.

Once my agreed to cooperate, I knew I had it!

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So many things were running through my head during the final stages of the race; how much I miss my dog and what I would give to have him at the finish line waiting for me, how I wished a friend of mine would reach out to me because I missed our friendship dearly, how lucky I am to have friends like EMZ, Pavement Runner, SeeSharpRun, and Lisa who never doubted I could be in this position just to name a few.

The crowd grew larger and it was wonderful to see some of my friends lining the course down the final stretch but this one last part, this part was for me. I did not cry nor do I really know what was going through my head. It was more like my life was racing through my head one scene at a time. All the happy times, all the sad times, and everything in between.

Truth be told, I do not remember crossing the finish line. All I remember was Chris at the finish line with a camera and pointing at me so he could take a photo. I walked up to him and gave him a hug. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion.

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Taken :17 seconds after I crossed the finish line by @runWestin.

Mile 26 – 9:58
Finish – 3:55:19

So there you have it. My journey to 26.2 miles was complete. It was everything I thought I would it would be and everything I never expected it to be.

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