Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oakland Running Festival Marathon

Remember a few race reports back when I went out of sequence with the Canyon Meadow Marathon and posted the victory shot at the beginning?  Looks like I'm doing it again, only this time I'm posting a mile 16 shot!  As comical as the photo below is, there really is pain and anguish underneath all the theatrics.  More on this in a bit.

Do I have a pulse?  Please say yes.

I was really excited about running the Oakland Running Festival Marathon this year.  I ran the half marathon in 2010 and absolutely loved it.  Oakland always gets a bad rap as a city, which is quite unfortunate.  Sure, there are areas where I wouldn't take The Epinephrine Pup for a walk late at night, but for the most part I'm totally ok wandering the streets of this great city.  Oakland is colorful, vibrant, and has so much character, and I remember all this was brought out at last year's race.  For this reason, I had to return, but this time for 26.2 miles.

Another big reason why I was so excited for running this race is because Oakland marked milestones for a few of my friends.  It's no secret that Endorphin Dude is all about spreading the word of good health and fun, and I am proud to say that I have inspired some of the folks in the following photo to get out there and run a long distance race. 

From left to right: My sister Diane, aka "Mademoiselle Escargot," Connie, Evelina, Erelyn, Chris Bliss, Ultra Woof, and Endorphin Dude.

I absolutely love seeing the marathon ripple effect in action.  I got Chris Bliss into half marathons, which inspired my sister Diane, who got her co-worker Erelyn into it, who in turn inspired her sister Evelina to do it, which got Erelyn and Diane's coworker Connie interested.  I give these ladies standing ovations for getting out there and sweating it out, and I sincerely hope that they continue that ripple effect and inspire others.

The final reason why I was pumped up about Oakland, and this is the most obvious one, is that I got to hang out with all my Marathon Maniac and running buddies!

From left to right: Love To Run Donna, her Love To Run Son, The Epinephrine Pup, Endorphin Dude, and Marathon Maniac Barabara Wnek.
See Dan Run!  See Dane Hold A Chiweenie!
Here's another running super hero, Mr. Greg Brown.  This is one of the nicest guys on the course.  He will always stop to give you a high five or a hug.
There's my running buddy Alison Cooksey.  We've run so many races together that I've lost count.
Fellow Marathon Maniac and DSE Buddy, Bill McCarty.
I saw the singlet. I had to go introduce myself. I asked her name. She said, "Eileen." I then said, "Oh you're Louie's friend! We had a whole Facebook conversation stemmed from 'Come On Eileen' and of course, your name came up!" Now we're FB friends.
Glad to be able to meet up with Marina in Northern CA. I usually see her in SoCal!
Bling Whores!

So let's get back to that first photo.  Yes, I had to stop at the medic station to get pain killers and a quick rub of the feet to soothe my aching blisters.  There has been only one other time where I had to stop for medical assistance, and that was at my first marathon in San Francisco when both my calves cramped up.  I was able to recover from race so I figured I could snap back in Oakland.  Unfortunately, that was not the case. 

My problems hit at about mile 13 when we made it to International Avenue.  I had set my Garmin to milk the clock and finish in seven hours.  However, once we got to this section of the race, the police escort and sag wagon tailed us to the point where I completely stressed out and started running in ways that lead to cramps.  I understand that the city needed to re-open the streets, but I am more accustomed to having a sweeper on a bicycle follow me or a sag wagon in the form of a minivan.  Never have I been followed by a squad car like this, and that stressed me out!  As a result, my left calf cramped up and I had to pull over to the side walk.  I managed to stretch it out and walk it off, but unfortunately, shortly after that painful episode, a different part of my body experienced the same cramping, which ultimately led to my down fall.  The worst cramp a marathoner will ever experience is the one between his or her ears.  Ouch.

Unfortunately, I experienced a colossal melt down the size of the Little Rock Marathon finisher's medal.  Luckily, my running mate, Ultra Woof, was able to distract me with funny stories about her growing up Chinatown cheap.  Her money saving anecdotes got me through a few miles.  By the time we reached the medic tent at mile 16, my brain dropped dead and it was at that point that I realized I couldn't run anymore.  For the final 10 miles, Ultra Woof and I walked the streets of Oakland, dodged oncoming traffic, and once or twice got lost.  At times it felt more like The Amazing Race than a marathon.  The clock kept ticking away and I knew that we would have to pick up the pace, but at that point, exhaustion had kicked in full gear, and it didn't help that the blisters on my feet cried for me to stop.  Nonetheless, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept going.  What kept sane was the the exchange of comical stories and the occasional photo shoot.  We kept the latter to the very bare minimum, as we knew that time was not on our side.  I do have to say, though, that those random pictures gave me the chance to stretch and mentally refresh myself. The following photo pretty much sums up how I felt.

Endorphin Dude reached levels of desperation, and at this point would have traded all his super powers for a ride to the finish line. Fortunately, a running super hero in compression pants and cape proved to be too risky for the commuters of Oakland. With no offers for rides, the marathon caped crusader had no choice but to finish the race!

When we hit mile 23, Ultra Woof received a phone call from our Ragnar Van Mom Elizabeth letting us know that the race director was tearing down the finish line area!  My running mate still had a lot of gas in her tank, but I was quickly deteriorating.  If it weren't for her positive energy, I probably would have just collapsed, fallen into Lake Merritt, and drowned.  Nonetheless, she kept me going.  One foot in front of the other, we plugged along.  Like the little engine that could I kept telling myself, "I think I can!  I know I can!" Wishful thinking, yes, but a great distraction to get me to that finish line.  When Ultra Woof and I reached the mile 26 marker and turned the corner to run into the finish line, the timing mat disappeared and all spectators and runners had gone home. All, that is, but Elizabeth, fellow Ragnar mate Jennifer, the Epinephrine Pup's doggie nanny Chris Bliss, Jennifer's fiance Mitchell, and my sister Diane, aka "Mademoiselle Escargot."  As the two of us staggered in, these guys hooted and hollered so loud for us that it felt like thousands of spectators were still there cheering on their friends and families. 

After we crossed, Jennifer quickly pulled out her cell phone and called the people in charge of timing to give our final times.  Elizabeth handed us our finishers medals.  Mademoiselle Escargot, Chris Bliss, and Mitchell continued to cheer us on.  These five had it all worked out.  Endorphin Dude and Ultra Woof made it, and it didn't matter that everyone had left for the day, because the most important ones stuck around for us.  People ask me all the time why I run, and now I can give them six concrete reasons: Ultra Woof, Elizabeth, Jennifer, Mitchell, Chris Bliss, and my sister.

The Oakland Running Festival did me in.  I mentally lost it at the half way point and was never really able to recover.  On the bright side, I did enjoy walking the second half, and it gave me an great opportunity to see the city by foot.  This race was intense, and at the end of the day, I got the job done.  I am very happy to be done with marathon #16.

Titanium scoreboard: 9 down, 43 to go!
Oh yeah, one other thing, Diane PR'ed by 12 whopping minutes,
Chris Bliss qualified for Half Fanatics, and
Ultra Woof qualified for Marathon Maniacs!


  1. This gives me hope! I did my 23 mile training run this weekend and it was so torturous it took me 5 1/2 hours to do it! Ive been mentally freaking out ever since because I'm signed up for the rock n roll marathons in San Diego and Seattle and I'll be doing my last one in SF at the end of July. I really want to join the ranks with the rest of the marathon maniacs but man is it flippin hard!
    Keep it up! You are truly a source of inspiriration!

  2. Andi, keep working at it. It's completely different on race day than it is in training. I've been there. When you're running a marathon, you will experience that incredible support from your fellow runners and the volunteers and spectators out there. You've picked an awesome race for your first. San Diego is amazing. Look for the cape. I'll be running San Diego as well. In fact, I'll be running Seattle and San Francisco too!

  3. yay! That is awesome. I will definitely keep my eye out for you. I know Im gonna be needing some serious endorphins to keep me motivated!