Earlier this month, I ran my third marathon. For those keeping track along with me, that's three marathons in just over five months! Who am I???
(Warning: This is the long version. Click HERE if you want the short version!) :)
My first marathon on April 28 was a bit of a downer, only because I fell short of my own expectations. I redeemed myself with my second marathon on June 16, having an absolute blast and beating my time by 14 minutes.
Part of me wanted to retire and go out on a high note. But another part of me wasn't ready to put behind me all that hard work (and the runner's high I was riding). I decided to throw in a longer run every month or so to maintain my fitness level, and then in early August, I got a wild hare (or is it hair??) and ran 20 miles on my treadmill. Figuring that meant I could probably pull off another one, I signed up for the Portland Marathon.
I'd heard so many wonderful things about Portland, and I thought I should give my hometown race a try before pulling back and focusing on shorter distances. Plus, my running buddy, Sarah, was also doing Portland, so I had someone for moral support!
For training, I did shortish mid-week runs, some mid-distance weekend runs (~10 milers), two half marathons (Candy and Oregon) and another 20 miler. My 20 miler was strong, with good pacing and self motivation (since I ended up doing the whole thing by myself). I felt ready to tackle this race!
I think I was most nervous about the weather forecast (and my clothing choice), which changed every day in the two weeks before, from wet to dry to wetter to drier to warm to cold. It ended up being clear, calm and cool. Perfect for my race.
The expo/packet pickup was at the downtown Hilton. It was well organized and full of good vendors. But I think it's a bit too big for the space. We went about noon Saturday, and it was super packed.
Still, we snagged my bib and shirt, bought a sweet Portland Marathon hoodie, sampled lots of goodies, got swabbed for the national bone marrow registry and scored some awesome running shoes!
Road Runner Sports has a 90-day guarantee and was selling the barely used returns for super cheap. We each scored two pair for $42 a piece. WOOHOO!
Arms full of freebies and other goodies, we headed to the car and drove up to The Pearl for lunch at the Mellow Mushroom. I'd been dreaming about this sandwich since dining there in August with Pa. It hit the spot, filling me with lots of fuel.
Race Day:When Oct. 6 finally arrived, I rose at 4 a.m. for my pre-game routine. We planned to leave Tigard about 5:30 a.m., giving plenty of time to park, find Sarah and get into my corral for the 7 a.m. start.
Sarah! Good luck, friend!!
I love how Portland's starting area is set up like wheel spokes with each corral getting its own block of potties and bag check UPS truck. We also had our own P.A. speakers! I can't tell you how many races I've been to where the people in the back can't hear what's going on. Frustrating.
I met up with my fam, used the porta potties, took some pics, parted with my warm clothes and glasses (it wasn't quite light out, but I needed my sunglasses for the race), drank my pre-race Gatorade pouch and bid farewell to my personal cheer squad. LET'S DO THIS!
Random: I looked over and spotted a woman with whom I ran much of the Vancouver USA Marathon. She's the one in the purple. We chatted for a bit while waiting to get going.
Apparently, there was a problem with last year's National Anthem singer, and they ended up scrambling and just having the runners sing. Everyone loved it, so they did it again this year. Thousands of runners sang the Star Spangled Banner as we moved from our wheel spokes toward the start line at Fourth Avenue and Taylor Street.
I was a bit nervous but really more excited and ready to run. It was chilly, and I waited until we approached the start before I ditched my throw-away fleece, bought Saturday at Value Village especially for the occasion. (They collect the piles and piles of throw-away clothes and donate them to local shelters)
A reaction to the spring's Boston Marathon bombings, security was tight. About a block before the start, we passed through a checkpoint with uniformed military personnel making sure only bibbed runners went into the start.
After walking what seemed like blocks and blocks and blocks (it was a little disorienting), we made it to Fourth Avenue, and it was our turn to run!
My only plan was to keep my pace around a 10:45-minute mile for as long as I could, hit each aid station for water, fuel more than last time and walk up the big hill to the St. Johns Bridge.
I had four levels of goals:
1. Have fun! Take in the scenery, enjoy the experience. Smile a lot.
2. Break 5 hours.
3. A PR would be awesome. (previous PR was 4:58:02 - an 11:23 average)
4. If all went perfect, a 4:45 could be within reach.
The first miles flew by. I was still in that early morning, didn't-get-enough-sleep, start-of-the-race fog. I tried to watch around me, seeing people, listening to bands, living in the moment.
We headed out (up) Naito to Barbur and back to Naito. (the course) I LOVE out-and-backs because I get to people watch. I welcome the distraction.
I was looking left at the runners coming toward me, watching for Sarah, and also keeping an eye on the right, watching for my fam and Brad. I spotted everyone, giving me a good boost and energy for the uphill.
I did have one bit of trouble. I grabbed water at the 2.5-mile station and went to take a gulp of homemade gel when the top popped off in my mouth! I narrowly averted a sticky disaster but also had a moment of panic about my fuel. Fortunately, Brad was waiting about a mile away with another bottle to swap out.
Next came the long out-and-back stretch on Front Avenue. It's very flat, and I turned on the cruise control and just ran. I spotted Brad, Steve and Donna and Mom and Eryn and was able to ditch my gloves and arm warmers and pick up more gels and the spare bottle of homemade gel. I also got to see speedy Sarah one last time. We quickly checked in with each other before heading in separate directions.
I was familiar with most of the course but not this far-out section. The turnaround seemed like it would never arrive! Fortunately, there were pirates entertaining us along the way.
We wove around in northwest Portland, where we were offered beer (urp!). We also got to yell at a driver who decided she needed to drive right down the middle of the crowded race course. WHAT?!
Then it was time for the long haul to the St. Johns Bridge. This was the part I was dreading most since it's long and grungy and boring and sunny and trafficy. But it actually wasn't bad. I was able to get into a really good groove, even catching up to the 4:40 pace group! My pace was holding steady at 10:45.
A woman pulled up beside me and asked my pace. I told her 10:45, and she thanked me and dropped back. I heard her say to the woman with her, "We need to slow down!" That felt great :)
At the bottom of the St. Johns Bridge, uniformed military guys were manning Checkpoint Charlie to keep bandits off the bridge (runners who didn't pay). I laughed out loud when I saw the signs on each side of the course with (apparently) Russian writing and razor wire on the ground in front. LOVED the sense of humor!
Per my plan, I walked up the big hill, talking a bit with others doing the same. I lost a little time off my pace, and I lost sight of the 4:40 group. We reached the top, and it was time to run again. Nine miles to go!
A bunch of people were waiting at the north end of the bridge, including my fam! A nice surprise :)
Willamette Boulevard is flat, and I tried to just stay in the groove as I counted down the miles. North Portland was awesome. It seemed like all the neighbors were out having block parties and cheering on the runners.
Brad was waiting for me around Mile 21, ready to hand off more gels. I told him I was close to my big goal and hoped to make up some of the St. Johns time on the upcoming big downhill. He wished me well and said he'd see me at the finish.
I was still feeling great, and I hit the Greeley Avenue hill, cruised down and did, indeed, make up the time I'd lost. But it was getting late and hot and sunny, and there's a little uphill going from Greeley onto Interstate. For the first time that day, I lost my steam physically and mentally. I slowed down and eventually decided to take a short walk - my first unplanned break of the day.
Between Miles 23 and 24, I took two or three short walks. So much for making up that lost time. I also turned down two more offers of beer (urp!).
But when I hit the Broadway Bridge approach, I got a bit of a second wind and was determined to finish this thing.
I pushed hard, trying to make up a few seconds and keep going strong. I kept the self talk positive. I remember walking through the Mile 25 aid station and willing myself to start running again. I talk to myself out loud when I run! "OK, OK, OK. I can do this. OK, OK, OK. Let's go. Almost done. OK, OK, OK!"
I popped out on Naito and dug deep. I skipped the final water stop and ran as hard as I could to the turn at Salmon Street. I rounded the corner and spotted my family on both sides of the road. The crowd was big and loud, and I felt like a rock star.
I heard my mom yell, "THAT'S MY DAUGHTER!"
Up three blocks and then a hard left on Third Avenue. There's the finish line. Go hard!
OH MY GOSH... I'm done! Don't pass out!!
(At Brad's race last year, the finish line was crammed with people. I assume security concerns had it blocked off this year. It was strange to have just volunteers and no spectators there to see me finish.)
A volunteer immediately grabbed me to make sure I was OK. I waved him off and moved on to the nice lady with the space blankets. And the nice lady with my finisher's medal. And the nice man with the camera. And the nice girl with the rose. And the nice lady who tied my blanket for me so my hands would be free.
Then came the food. An entire block of food. Popsicles, water, chocolate milk, candy, fruit, chips, bagels, cookies, doughnuts, pretzels. It was crazy. And the worst part? Just the thought of food made me want to puke!
The volunteers were amazing! The chocolate milk guy even asked if we wanted the cartons opened or closed. Everyone was congratulating us and telling us to load up on goodies. One woman sought me out to make sure I received my commemorative medallions.
All I wanted to do was sit and stretch my legs a bit. I found an empty curb next to a woman attempting to get down. We laughed at ourselves.
I spent some time in the finishers' area, eventually getting a little food, grabbing my shirt and seedling and taking my official picture. Then I made my way toward the family reunion area. People were mobbing the exit, and for the first time all day, I was a little emotional. What an amazing experience!
My family was waiting on the outside, ready with hugs and kind words. They took pictures and listened to my stories. Then we hit the clothing vendor for some half-priced race wear! YES, please!
Eventually, we went home so I could take an ice bath and clean up. Sporting my new finisher's shirt and medal, we all gathered at Native Foods Cafe for serious refueling.
My Numbers:According to my trusty Garmin, I finished in 4:46:04 - a 10:52 average.
- Mile 1: 11:07
- Mile 2: 10:40
- Mile 3: 11:13
- Mile 4: 10:02
- Mile 5: 10:44
- Mile 6: 10:39
- Mile 7: 10:46
- Mile 8: 11:01
- Mile 9: 10:40
- Mile 10: 10:40
- Mile 11: 10:42
- Mile 12: 11:03
- Mile 13: 10:31
- Mile 14: 10:49
- Mile 15: 10:46
- Mile 16: 11:00
- Mile 17: 12:57 (hill)
- Mile 18: 10:42
- Mile 19: 10:33
- Mile 20: 11:01
- Mile 21: 10:46
- Mile 22: 10:17
- Mile 23: 10:54
- Mile 24: 12:47 (walks)
- Mile 25: 10:59
- Mile 26: 10:07
- Mile 26.3: 8:53
I worked hard to go slow, listening for my Garmin to beep whenever I got down to a 10:15 average. I'm proud of my pacing, which was fairly consistent. I stuck with my plan and made all my goals. Well, I missed 4:45 by 4 seconds... I'm gonna count it ;)
My previous PR from Vancouver was 4:58:02. Portland was 4:46:04 - that's 12 minutes!!! And that's 26 minutes faster than Eugene's 5:11:58!
I loved this race!
There were bands or other entertainment all along the route - like every couple blocks in some places! I saw a handbell choir (!), a harpist, rock bands, jazz, country, pirates, DJs, marimbas, cheerleaders, high school bands, and many, many more.
It all seemed like one big party, and the spectators were terrific. I felt supported through the entire race.
The logistics were great, with good aid stations and well organized starts and finishes, including bag check.
Everything I've heard about Portland was true. It's a fantastic race. And while I've hung up my marathoning shoes for now, I'd love to run Portland again... we'll see :)
Again, thanks to all my family and friends for your support and encouragement throughout this adventure :)