The 4am wake up call came too soon. As soon as my alarm went off I jumped out of bed and turned on every light possible to wake my body up. Bailey, of course, was awake too and started getting excited as I put my running clothes on. I know he knows the difference between running clothes and regular clothes and I had to tell him he couldn't come along - oh the torturous look he gave me, but I promised him a walk before we left for the race.
In short, the race was amazing. Everything clicked that day and I even did a Personal Best for my half marathon time. However, the day was not perfect from moment to moment, so here are my top six moment's (good and bad) from the US Half Marathon:
Moment #1 - Thinking My Car Got Towed
Parking in San Francisco can be a pain in the arse, but luckily, parking on Sundays in San Francisco is FREE. Or so we thought. The race started around Ghiradelli Square, a popular tourist spot in the city where, apparently, they do charge for street parking on Sundays. Since we got into the city around 6am on Sunday, the only traffic on the streets were runners parking for the race. We found some meters close to the start, but noticed they started charging at 7am, the time the race started. So we drove on a bit and just as I was about to turn a corner another car pulled out of a parking spot on a free street. I whipped in as soon as they pulled out and Marci got out to look for street signs. Everything was clear and we even asked a race official who was standing by if we could park there. He said as long as we didn't see any street signs we should be fine. Then I realized we were about 100 feet from the race start! SCORE!!!!!
There was a car in front of me and a car behind me so I thought I was safe. Well, once the race started and I ran past my parking spot and I looked over to see if my car was still there - I immediately noticed the car in front of me was gone. I panicked for a split second thinking my car was gone too. I could handle paying a parking ticket, but being towed! I didn't even know where it would go! But my moment of panic was brief, and I suddenly realized my car was still there - safe and sound - so I didn't have to spend the next 13 miles freaking out about where it was.
Moment #2 - Being Passed By A Speedwalker
The race started in a big pack, no corrals, which was great because we didn't stand around waiting for 45 minutes while the race officials set everyone off. We just started together and sorted ourselves out during the first two miles. The first hill felt great - training on hills all year really paid off on this run - until I looked over and saw a speedwalker pass me. Yeah, that felt good. All I could do was laugh and accept this first ego check of the day.
Moment #3 - The Gatorade Mishap
The first water station came about two miles in. Since I was still feeling nervous about the race my mouth had gone a little dry and although I had hydrated properly I wanted a quick swig of water. I went in for the cup grab from a volunteer and threw it back only to realize it was lemon Gatorade. I'm only not a fan of Gatorade because I don't train with it. I like to just drink water or coconut water when I workout. I had been so careful about what I ate and drank leading up to the race that swallowing a mouthful of Gatorade would not have been a good idea. I had another moment of panic as I realized what was in my mouth and all I wanted to do was spit it out. But being so early in the race I was in a huge pack of runners and spitting it out would have meant spitting it on someone else. So I ran about 100 feet with a mouthful of Gatorade wondering what I should do. Then I just swallowed it and prayed it wouldn't affect me. Well, a quarter mile after that swallow I felt a huge cramp come on.
Moment #4 - Killing The First Hill / Seeing Marci
The first big hill came about three miles in. We rounded a sharp corner and there it was - UP. Everyone around me stopped and started walking and I was so tempted to join them, but I just put one foot in front of the other and ran. I figured it would be a good test to how I was feeling that day and how these hills would work themselves out. I also had a massive side cramp from my Gatorade mishap so I was really hoping that wouldn't slow me down. So I just ran. I passed people left and right (something I NEVER do) and just kept chugging up the hill. It was a good three minute run and the closer I got to the top of it the better I was feeling! My cramp was going away and I felt unstoppable! As I reached the top my euphoria for conquering this first hill started to rush over me and then I looked up to see more racers running back towards us who were ahead of us. And as soon as I looked up I saw Marci! What were the odds of that?! I was hoping I'd see her on the course, but had I not ran up this hill I wouldn't have seen her. We both locked eyes and then started screaming at each other, "GO BETTI GO! YOU GOT THIS!!!!" And as I rounded my corner to go downhill, she rounded hers and was gone. That five seconds of seeing her gave me a boost to tackle the next long hill and the hill after that. It was AWESOME.
Moment #5 - Crossing The Golden Gate Bridge
As soon as the race started all I wanted to do was get on The Golden Gate Bridge. I purposely wanted to run this particular half marathon because the course led us over and back across The Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge is iconic to San Francisco and since I'd only moved here less than two years ago, I felt like this was a right of passage for living here - that finally I could call myself a resident of this great city. So as I found myself stepping onto it and heading across it I took in my surroundings. It was a crystal clear day, the bay was bright blue and beautiful, and the sun shone over the city to my right. Sausalito stood proudly in front of me and the Pacific Ocean stood strongly to my left. It was exhilarating. And to top it off, Imagine Dragons started playing on my iPod and 'On Top Of The World' starting blaring through my headphones. It was amazing.
It was also a blast seeing so many people pull over and stop to take pictures. This race wasn't about finishing first, it was about the experience, the amazing views, and enjoying every moment of it. Watching these people stop and smile and say cheese made me smile and appreciate the fact that I get to see this EVERY DAY and know how incredibly lucky I am.
Moment #6 - Finishing
I ran the first seven miles without walking, then hit our fifth massive hill and needed to stop and take a walk break. So I walked up that hill and started running again until I hit 10.5 miles. My goal going into the race was to hold back for the first ten miles and then unleash the beast and crush the last three. Well, that didn't exactly happen. When the time came to unleash the beast, the beast was tired and was totally fine being leashed. So I ended up run / walking the last three, but I kept pushing myself to run more and more and walk less. Finally, up and over one last hill and the beautiful Aquatic Park and finish line lay in front of me. I wanted to walk the last 0.3 miles so badly, but like my Aussie triathlete friends say, 'Pain is temporary!' so I thought that and pushed hard to the finish to see Marci standing there waiting for me. I ran right into her and gave her a huge hug and thanked her for being the best running partner ever. (Yeah, we tend to get a little emotional post-race.) Then I realized I had run a Personal Best Half Marathon on a course with massive hills. I felt like a ROCKSTAR.
It took me about half an hour to come down from my runner's high and Marci and I went to a nearby park that was having a food festival (perfect, right?!). As we sat around and let the day sink in we started to realize how much we had accomplished in the past year, how much we've both grown as athletes, and how much we've learned about ourselves. It was really strange to realize I was done training for the year. My events are finished. So now what?
Well, I'm taking a few weeks off, I'm heading to Hawaii for a long weekend where I plan to get an ocean swim in every day, and I'm going to really reflect on what this year has meant to me. I've gone plant based and its completely changed my life. I'm excited to get back in the pool, on my bike, and in my running shoes. I'm excited to get back on my yoga mat and really get deep into my yoga and meditation practice. I'm excited to be making more and more recipes for The Aloha Files, and I'm ecstatic about what's next on the horizon.
A year ago I never would have thought I'd be where I am right now. And I can't wait for what the next year will bring.