Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Portland Marathon Madness

Portland Marathon Website

Have you seen this question on a shirt as you lined up for a recent race?  "It seemed like a good idea six months ago."  Yeah, that sums up my plan to run a fast Portland Marathon.

Pre-race: Driving along I5 with the rain beating down on the windshield, I had that dreaded feeling about blisters, chafing and being chilled to the bone.

On our way to Portland...will the rain let up for the race?
Arriving at our hotel in the Nob Hill District at 3:00 pm, we quickly checked in and hightailed it to the expo held at Portland’s Hilton in the heart of downtown. We drove through congested neighborhoods filled with boutique shops, coffee houses, and various corner restaurants. It’s a very cozy neighborhood and people seemed to be enjoying window shopping and stopping for coffee despite the downpour.

Driving in Portland was a little…tricky. Many intersections included more than 4 way-stops and would be excellent geometry questions. One-way streets are fairly common so you have to be mindful of which way you are turning. I managed to turn down a street into a BUS ONLY lane and freaked out only a little. Finally we raised the white flag and found a parking garage within a 10 minute walk to the hotel.

As we descended the non-moving escalator, I whispered to Jeff that it felt like we were cattle being herded to slaughter.   I was assigned to Corral A, right at the front of the race and realized maybe, perhaps, possibly I was a little optimistic about my finish time. I escaped the Expo only having spent $6 in Clif Shots and Gu.

Red Lizard Running RED LIZARD RUNNING had a booth set up for pacing information and I was forced to make a decision: if you can only choose one pace, do you pick the long-shot-but-you-really-want-it-pace or the more reasonable-you-have-a-fairly-good-chance-at-hitting-it-pace band? 3:15? 3:25? I carefully put the 3:15 band back and stuffed my 3:25 band away, feeling like I just sentenced myself to mediocrity. It’s not that 3:25 is slow but it is slower than what I wanted to accomplish.

Why do you mock me, Red Lizard Pace Band

We had elected to eat at The Olive Garden across the River for the Never Ending Pasta Bowl. $8.95 gets you any pasta, plus any sauce, as well as salad and bread sticks. All never-ending!  Two rounds of food later, we boxed up our leftovers and headed back to the hotel.

We squeezed into our swimming clothes and headed to the pool. We idled over to the spa and I was pleasantly surprised to see another Maniac, David Spooner, and his wife. They were trying to relax as their three children played in the pool. The water felt like hot coals and I let my legs soak while sweat dripped off my face. David was hoping to stay with the 3:15 group but he has had a rough year with his finishing times and was hoping for the best. This would be his first Portland Marathon.

I laid out everything the night before and still hadn't decided what I would wear.

New Lululemon outfit or Marathon Maniac?

Three alarms were set for 5:00 am and we managed to get the lights out about 10:00 pm.

Waking up at 4:59 (how does the body do that?), I stumbled to the bathroom and started the coffee. I dressed in my new Lululemon outfit and hoped it wasn't a mistake as I’ve never worn it on a long run. That would be a rookie mistake but I took the chance because it’s just so darn cute!

On your mark!

We left the hotel room at 6:15 instead of the planned 6:00 because I was hoping I could just use our bathroom instead of the porta-potty.  Wishful thinking.

Parking was a bear so we decided to go to the same parking garage from the day before. Of course on the drive to the start, my body has decided to rebel (as it does before every race) and I needed to get to the porta potties quickly.

Rain was endless and I was sporting a fashionable garbage bag to stay dry as long as possible. Temperature was 65 so at least it wasn’t cold.

Corral A loomed ahead and we made our way to the line for the porta-potties. It was 6:43...17 minutes to the start. Finally I was near the front of the line but we had already heard the National Anthem and they had just sent off the wheelchair racers at 6:59. I was two people back when the gun fired and I tried not to panic. I can’t ever recall missing the start of a marathon although I’ve cut it close a number of times. My Garmin watch wouldn’t locate its satellite so I stole Jeff’s watch and made my way to the start, almost 3 minutes after I should have been running.

As I carefully weaved my way through runners, trying to stay to the side and not cut off anyone, I passed the 3:45 pace group. I glanced at my pace band and saw that most of the first miles are around 7:47 pace so I focused on hitting that split. Frustration was building as I thought about the 3:30 group and I couldn't even see them. Drumbeats filled the air and my spirit soared as we ran by this amazing group of performers. The beat of the drums drove away some of my doubt, replacing it with joy and hope.

I was surprised to see Jeff along a straightaway filled with spectators. We headed out and faced our first hills. It wasn't too big of an incline and the first 6 miles went quickly as my pace was close to the 3:25 splits.

Have I mentioned the rain? The endless rain? I never felt cold because the temperature was mild. The major concerns were getting blisters, chafing, running through HUGE puddles, and my shoes feeling heavy. I squeaked through the race without any blisters or chafing and don’t ask me how that happened! I used Aquafor and rubbed stick deodorant all over as a precaution. Other races I’ve done that and still got blisters and chafing.

I was able to see some familiar faces on the out and back near mile 8 and finally got a look at the 3:10, 3:20, and finally the 3:30 pace group.  I guessed I was 2 minutes behind them at this point.  Gummi bears were being handed out and I only took some after seeing gloved hands reaching directly into the bags.  A girl asked why they were handing them out and I told her basically they were quick energy, sugar getting to your blood quickly.  This was her first marathon and she wasn't going to take ANYTHING until after the bridge around mile 18.  I don't think it was a good plan but she had her mind set and didn't want to try anything new.  I did grab a cup of "Liquid Gold" and had to spit it out after nearly choking.  Yuck.  It was honey?

Running in the Rain

I approached the stretch of road that is "no man's land" on this course, the miles leading up to St. John's Bridge.  It was on this road that my mind gave up on me.  It made excuses, promises and lies. 

My Brain:  "Hey stupid, what's the point of trying to run faster?   You're not going to PR.  Just relax...what were you thinking trying to make this a fast race...you have a double next weekend so this is a good thing that you're going slower, you'll recover faster...did you see that old man just pass you?  Let's just make this a long training run..." 

Jennifer Hill and Justin Green of Hillsboro stopped at the 21-mile mark of the Portland Marathon just long enough to exchange vows and celebrate with a kiss. After a nine-minute ceremony, they ran off for the finish line  OREGONLIVE.COM
 I made one porta-potty stop around mile 15, but in the end, it may have only added one to two minutes to my finish time.  Approaching the bridge on the uphill, I was passed by a couple who were going to be married on the course.  They had a lot of great reasons to be running faster than I did at that moment. 

Miles 18 through 24 were filled with incredible crowd support, amazing volunteers and aid stations and runners showing signs of exhaustion and elation.  I seemed to be on cruise control and stayed in my comfort zone, lacking motivation to push harder.  I turned down the "free beer" offered at mile 21 and had attempted to smile for the camera near the 20 mile mark. 

Mile 24 and my spirts are improving.  I have resigned myself to finishing slower than most of my previous marathons this year.  I was able to encourage a few runners by reminding them that these miles are why we signed up...boy, I hope I didn't make them mad!

Crossing the Steele Bridge, a perky girl in a beanie hat was talking non-stop to another woman and talking her through every step.  She was definitely her pacer as we passed a volunteer and commented how she was sure the Race Nazis would pull her off the course.

Last mile and I give everything I have, wishing I had run with that oomph all the other miles.  I passed numerous runners and felt really strong at the finish.  Rounding the corner, I forgot, again, to look for the Fat Lady.  I have never seen the Fat Lady, I swear.  But I did see my amazing husband cheering for me!

3:39:46 gun time, 3:37:24 chip time.  I stumble through the chute, receive a half-marathon medal and thankfully another volunteer realized the mistake.  A sweet girl gave me a rose, and I made my way though the food aisle, grabbing whatever I could hold.  Finisher's shirt is in my hand and I wait in line to get my photo taken.  I finally make my way out of the runner's area and Jeff finds me like a sheep gone astray.

One thing I haven't mentioned yet because it's embarrasing to admit is this...I have been holding back tears since I saw the clock and received the wrong medal.  I know it's ridiculous. 

I saw my husband and fell apart.  Cried like a baby, if you must know.  Jeff asked, "Are you hurt...is your back okay...are you sick?" and in my tiniest pathetic voice I whimpered, "I'm...hup....hup..sad..sniff...about my time...waaaa!" 

I know he did his best not to laugh at me.   We managed to get to the hotel and thankfully had a late checkout so I could shower and stop shivering.  I was happy to not have any chafing or blisters but, as my daughters would say, my toes looked "pickled".

We ate a healthy meal at Jack and The Box and began the long drive home.  As we were leaving, Jeff looked down on the road below and pointed out walkers and joggers still on the course about two miles from the finish.  That moment helped put my time into perspective. 

 We stopped at Costco on our way home and I indulged on a little post-race pity party and it tasted so good!  Yes, I DID eat the whole ice cream bar. 

Post Marathon Blues- must eat chocolate!