7:12:33December 15, 2004
I DID IT!
This is going to be a LONG entry, I warn you. Lots about the marathon, nothing about knitting, or really, anything else for that matter. I started it in Hawaii, and I’m finishing it in bed, this sunny Wednesday afternoon (sorry, got in from the flight too late last night to post). I’m hungry, and want coffee, but will post this first.
As I type this (but not as I post it, since I can’t get into typepad for some reason), I’m sitting at the edge of the ocean. It’s Monday night, probably about 7pm, and I’m at the Sheraton Waikiki, listening to the surf and the Hawaiian singers and the loud drunk people. People start drinking early here, boy howdy. Me, I’m only on my first mai tai of the evening. Behind the tiki torches in front of me, over the water, is Diamond Head. I can’t see it right now, but I’ve stared at it off and on all day while floating in the water. I’ve gone for four swims today (and you know by “swimming” I mean “floating in the water like a pool toy”). And I’ve had a massage. It’s been a rough, rough day, I can tell you.
I’m pretty much doing the opposite of what I did yesterday, which was run my ass off. I’m so PROUD of Marama and myself. We are finishers. We are marathoners. We DID it. With your help, and with your incredible well wishes, we made it. I swear to god, there were times that I could FEEL you thinking of us. I would flag, I would lose my breath and almost my balance, I would think “what the fuck makes a person do this?” and I would get that second (fourteenth) wind, knowing I was supported and thought of.
Oh, it was amazing. How do I tell you about it? I don't even know where to start.
First of all, getting here was miserable. Marama had worked twelve hours, and even though I had only worked eight, we had both been up all night. We got off at 5am, took BART to the airport, and then waited around, dead on our feet. Crammed onto the plane, we only cat-napped uncomfortably for the six-hour ride. Oh, we were grumpy. There isn’t anything like a plane full of really excited, happy, clean, well-rested, good-smelling people to irritate two rumpled, exhausted dispatchers who’ve just spent the previous night dealing with other people’s problems. We are probably at this very moment getting extra time recorded in purgatory for how much we hated everyone but each other. But that wore off, and fast, as soon as we got on the bus from the airport to the hotel. Oh, we were home! Marama was born here, and I spent my formative teen years in the islands. It just felt so good, and so right.
And even better when we checked into our ocean-front room at the Sheraton. Dude! Ocean-front! This is a charity gig; we expected a “mountain” view. But we were on the tenth floor, a balcony looking right onto the sand, water, and pool. Taken from the balcony:
Oh, oh, oh. We just wandered on Thursday, happy to see and smell the sights. And we’re talking Coach and Prada and Hermes, fancy shops that are more plentiful in Waikiki than are palm trees.
On Friday we rented a car and drove around the island. It was Marama’s idea, and she is BRILLIANT.
We got right away from the crowds and visited the beaches where she played as a child, and we went thrift-store shopping and bought Hawaiian fabric and followed two gay boys (Kevin and Tim) all over Oahu. Everywhere we stopped, they were already there. I think they started to get scared of us after a while. We ended up in the tiny town of Haleiwa on the North Shore after the sun went down. Starving, we chose a little restaurant near the marina and then watched the local Christmas parade go by while we ate dinner. The navy boys just arriving home went by on their humvees, followed by large doves of peace. There was a float topped with Rudolph leading the nativity scene. It was awesome.
Saturday was pretty shot getting ready for the marathon. We went to the Expo and signed in, receiving our marathon chips and bibs. (You tie the chip to your shoe, and it tracks your progress all through the marathon, and the bib is your number writ large (6900!) for all the cameras to track. It’s how they plan to get you to buy the photo they take of you as you cross the finish line. Oh, I’ll buy it, all right. Never fear. Don’t care if there’s snot and tears all over my face, I’ll buy it.) Then we carbo-loaded until we were sick, and attempted to go to sleep by about 7:30pm. It didn’t work – we were both up for HOURS, but we tried.
We woke at 2:45am. Yep. It was bad, really bad. We didn’t talk much, we were just focused on getting our gear on in the right order. Out of the hotel by 3am, off to pick up my teammates (seen here the day before)
at the Hyatt, about a half-mile down the road. Left there at 3:30am, in order to catch the shuttle that we were told to ride between the hours of 2 and 4. But no, there were NO shuttles. They were full and gone, and we had to WALK the two miles to the start line. Oh, insult to injury.(Even more insults came from the jeers we received from the people just leaving the clubs which don’t close in Hawaii until 4am. They took great pleasure in telling us how fucking nuts we were. We appreciated it.)
We followed thousands and thousands of people down the roads to the start, all of us wearing our running clothes and a slight nervous green tinge around the gills. With over 25,000 runners, the start was incredible. There were fireworks over the water, and then we were OFF! The fast people were in the front; the rest of us left in a shuffle that was so exciting it translated as real speed. It was one of those pinch-me moments. My running mates and I kept asking each other, “Are we really doing this? Really? We’re really running a marathon! In Hawaii! We’re here!” And then we would shuffle a few more feet. That many people is a LOT of people.
We were running that day at a faster pace than we had run the practice marathon, for some ungodly reason. I hadn’t been too happy about it when it was proposed, but I was in the minority, so I shut up and sucked it up, knowing that I could drop back if necessary. For the last six months, it had been drilled into us that we never, ever leave our pace group partners, but that rule didn’t apply for the marathon. We had to do whatever we had to do to cross the finish line. We hoped we would make it together, but we couldn’t be sure of anything. But the pace felt good, and we ran. And we ran. And we ran.
A little less than two hours in, we were at mile 8 (yep, we have a pretty slow pace, even speeded up), and we saw the most amazing thing. It was even more amazing than the sunrise we had just seen, blazing over Diamond Head, breaking through the low clouds in brilliant scored rays. We saw the first runners coming IN. Think about it. Those Kenyans, man. The fastest runner ran the whole damn marathon in 2:11:12. Two hours and eleven minutes! When we were at mile eight, he was passing mile 25, just about to bring it home. His legs were as high as my shoulders. Thousands of runners were screaming for him as he flashed by, and he never spared us a glance. He couldn’t. He was followed by police motorcycles, flying code three, and they could barely keep up. He was a miracle in motion, and I’m not overstating this. And then the first woman raced by. We almost tripped in our own running, we screamed and cheered so loudly. They kept coming. Even though they couldn’t win, the fast runners kept on coming, their legs looking like cartoon blurs. Insane. Truly insane, what these people were doing. And we still had five hours to go. We kept on trotting.
The daylight was just peeling back as we climbed Diamond Head. Now, I have to tell you. Diamond Head is a mountain, and while we knew we didn’t have to run right over the very top, we knew we had to climb its foothills to get around it, and we were scared. Everyone we talked to said it was horrible. Hard. Killing. We got there and it was nothing. Come on. We trained in San Francisco, going up the Cliff House to Sutro Heights. We literally went up the side of Diamond Head and then looked for the hill we had to climb. It was only when we started descending that we realized we were done with it. It was fabulous, one of our best moments.
Then it was flat and progressively hotter, but we were having a ball. Really. We were having a blast, laughing, talking, looking at the waves and the palms, cheering on our fellow AIDS Marathon runners (there were about 1100 of them in the race).
***Break here, now I’m back in bed, at home. Adah’s purring next to me, and I’m thinking of making some coffee, but I’ll finish this post, which I totally owe you.
The best things in life were the sponges. They were soaked in ice water, and handed to you as you ran by. I took mine every time and wrung it out over my head. Running in heat is totally bearable if you’re soaked to the skin. Another helpful hint: A bra full of ice cubes helps. Seriously. They make the best clinking noises when you run, too.
So we ran and ran and ran. Every hour I’d eat a package of Gu (chocolate is the best – tastes like a great big warm melted chocolate kiss), and at about mile fifteen I added a salt packet to my water bottle. You know you’re sweating when salty water tastes great. Oh! I was spotted by Monica! She cheered me on as I ran by! My running mates were very impressed that I was recognized, and I was thrilled to be recognized by the insanely awesome LA coach.
Okay, being back home, tucked up in bed, it’s hard to remember how it all went. It was perfectly great until about mile twenty, and then it got hard. But we stuck to our pace religiously, something we weren’t sure that we were going to be able to do. Teammate Kathleen hit a wall, not sure if it was The Wall or not, but she managed to keep going, despite her failing IT bands. Vanessa was hurting. Lauren and I were hurting, too, but we kept it going. It’s strange to be that incredibly, unbearable tired and in that much pain, and still be able to pick up your legs and run.
After mile 20, it gets blurry in my memory. The people cheering on the sides of the road helped the most. The trick is to write your name on your singlet. And oh, did it work. At the beginning of the race, when the fireworks are exploding and people are cheering, you think they’re totally cheering just for you. At the end of the race, they really, really are. Hundreds and hundreds of times, I heard, “Go, Rachael! Rachael, you can do it! You’re almost there! You’ve got it! Keep it up, Rachael!” The first time I heard that, I cried.
We ran back up Diamond Head, and this time it was HARD. But once up, we got to run all the way down to the finish line. Another teary moment was when we heard someone yell, “It’s all downhill from here!” Marama said later she had felt the same way. We kept expected more Up. To find there’s only Down is the best feeling ever.
Now we’re close to the end. A friend of my teammate’s finds us and runs along the sidewalk, cheering us. She says that at that turn right there, we’ll be able to see the finish line. We turn. We CAN see the finish line. It’s far away, but it’s there. Our smiles are so huge they don't fit on our faces. We’re laughing and running harder. People are yelling for us, pushing us faster. There is no pain at all, none. Van and Lauren sprint ahead; I stay with Kat just a few feet back, and we’re over the line. We did it. We did it!
And then I’m not really sure where I should stop running so I go a little farther until people are laughing and telling me it’s okay to stop. I hug random strangers. I cry a little. I take this shot of myself.
And this was taken by the marathon—I’ll order it larger when it’s available on-line.
Not bad for a first-timer. Okay, it’s pretty slow. But it was consistent. My first half was almost exactly as long as my second half. Out of 25,671 runners, I was number 18,809. Right at the front of the fourth quarter. I am so PROUD of my medal and my finisher shirt and all the other marathon swag I bought. But I’ve never been prouder than when I watched Marama run over the finish line, too. Oh, oh, oh.
This is a really long entry, huh? Sorry. So. We collected our things, our medals and tees. We sat on the grass at the AIDS Marathon booth and ate peanut butter. We called people and told them we did it.
(Best conversation: Marama’s five-year old daughter Kalea had asked her earlier in the week, “Mom, can you win?” Marama said, “I’ll try.” When she came over the finish line, she won. She totally won. So she called Kalea and said, “Guess what, baby girl? I won!” I could hear from where I was sitting Kalea’s “Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!”)
Then we had to walk back to the hotel. Ouch. Probably almost a mile from the finish line, that was painful. We changed into swimsuits, went downstairs into the water and went for a swim. It was gorgeous, looking up at Diamond Head and knowing we’d DONE it. Then we went up to the pool bar and ordered our mai tais.
We had Monday to play on the beach and watch half of Honolulu limp (that really was funny, actually. I've never seen so many people limping and hobbling all in one place). Marama got the marathon punes (as Mariko calls them) and spent a lot of time lying down, but I managed to sit on the beach and watch the people go by:
and I got to drink a little that night, after a spectacular sunset:
Remember this: A Tropical Itch at the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Bar comes with its very own back scratcher. Good to know.
I'm still in bed, about to post this. It still hurts to walk, and to stand up, or sit down, or go up or down any steps, but it was so worth it. So worth it. I think I'm going to rest right here until I have to go back to work tonight. I might wear my medal. Hell, I think I will.