And then it was morning. The alarm(s) went off at 4:45 and by 5 a.m. I rolled out of bed and smeared a whole wheat English muffin (NOT "double fiber"!) with almond butter and strawberry jam. I took this back to bed with my coffee and a banana and ate breakfast while lounging. I wanted to eat two hours before the race but didn't need to get up so early for any other reason.
I was a little confused about how to get to my starting corral--the maps made it look like I may need to walk way south and then double back, over a mile--so I planned to leave around 6 a.m. to allow plenty of time. The race started at 7:00.
I dressed in my previously pictured race outfit. A Nuu Muu running dress, Nike capris, my brand new Nathan Speed 2 fuel belt (I bought the new one in blue to go with my outfit), a black running hat and a throwaway jacket from Goodwill (which looked a whole lot like other black jackets I own). I also had my brand new Garmin--no more duct tape! (Although I'm keeping the old one, obviously, there may be some circumstances when I need two, right?)
I made as many bathroom visits as I could manage but worried a little that I wasn't purging my insides as thoroughly as I would like. Perhaps my reduction in fiber over the last couple days played a part...I was also worried that I hadn't been hydrating well enough because I didn't seem to be peeing as voluminously as I am accustomed to.
Let me say a little something about nerves. Of course I was nervous, I always am before a race. But the nature of my nervousness is a little different before a marathon than any other race. It's kind of crazy how tense and worried I can be bfore a 5K or 10K or whatever shorter race. That's pretty much based on my fear of not being able to run as fast as I want to. That worry alone will turn my stomach into knots. In a marathon, it's different. Nobody ever worries about not being able to finish a 5K, right? But in a marathon, not finishing is really the only fear.* Oh sure, there are time goals and PR dreams (more important to some people than to me), but the biggest and really only failure would be not getting through the 26.2 miles. It's still absolutely amazing to me that I can really do this.
Okay, then. I walked out of the door at a little past 6:00 and joined the group of people walking the same direction as me. It turns out that we were able to turn into the corral area sooner than I had feared, so I probably only walked a half to three quarters mile distance. I passed by Corral C and went into Corral D. There were lots of people already but they were milling about and going to the potties, not gathering to start yet. There was still probably 40 minutes to wait.
I got into a port a potty line and got in pretty quickly. then I walked over to the pacers' signs. Four-hour was at the front of the corral and I decided not to bother with him. If I was capable of running a four hour marathon I would see that in my splits pretty early on. I went to 4:10 and and asked him what pace he planned on running, 9:30? He said 9:32. Someone else asked him how many marathons he's run. He said three. That kind of made me wonder whether he had the ability to keep his pace down to a 9:30-ish level. (I am assuming his personal marathons have been much faster.) But I decided to go out near his sign and see what happened.
I went back to a potty line and passed some more time there. I really didn't have anything left to squeeze out, though. In a shorter race I always do a warm-up run and that makes me really pee right before the start. I hoped that the first few miles of the marathon would not have the same effect.
Then, as we all clustered toward the starting line of our corral, it was 7 a.m. and the race was starting somewhere ahead of us. Each wave would start a few minutes after the one before, walking up toward the "real" starting line. I believe my wave (or me, anyway, crossed the start at 7:09).
As we started running over the timing mats, we were still hampered a little by the closeness of the crowd and it was hard to set a pace. I really wanted to stick with the 4:10 pacer for at least a few miles, so I followed him as he took off once the crowd opened up a little. I think he was trying to make up the pace from a slow start, plus the first mile was a little downhill. I felt like our effort was a little hard for 9:30 pace, and I wondered if I would be able to keep this up. But it turns out we were running a little fast. Mile 1 - 9:13.
We slowed down a bit in the next couple miles (a little slower than goal pace, but it would average with the first mile). The pacer guy may have been trying to even things out, or maybe it was because we were going uphill gently in these two miles. I stayed right in the pacer's vicinity here. Mile 2 - 9:37. Mile 3 - 9:47.
At that point we got to turn and go back down the other side of the uphill! I picked up my pace easily and decided to let myself pull ahead of the pacer. I was happy to get a little bit ahead of pace because I knew I would lose some time with a bathroom stop eventually. Mile 4 - 9:09. Mile 5 - 9:13 (this 9:13 felt much more natural than the first one!). As we started down the hill a guy told me to enjoy this downhill! Yes, indeed.
The next seven miles were perfectly on pace. I believe that these miles were pretty much flat. I'm sure there were slight inclines and declines in the road elevation, but nothing to interfere with a comfortable pace. This section was a long out and back along N.W. Front Street. We turned around just before the 9-mile marker. There was a band playing along the way and lots of spectators. I'm not someone who really cares that much about spectators--I'm fine with or without them--so I can't remember well what sections had lots and which had none, or few. There was one older guy, though, who I kept seeing pop up throughout the course. (I think it was the same guy.) He had a bike so it was quite possible. It was just a little weird!
I ate a Gu at about mile 8. My fueling plan was one Gu at miles 8, 13.1, 18, and 23. I almost followed it. Up until the end.
On both the out and the back it was fun to see the other runners going the other directions. The runners coming back were the fast ones, of course, and they didn't care about us. When we were on the return side I hope we were more encouraging to those still plugging "out"!
I saw the 4:10 pacer after I turned around and I think I was probably about 30 seconds or a minute ahead of him there. Miles 6-12 - 9:27, 9:27, 9:32, 9:32, 9:26, 9:35.
Just before the Mile 11 marker we split off from the half marathoners and they headed toward their finish while we headed onward. I was actually quite happy to let the half marathoners go on their way and not even envious that they were almost done. Even though we weren't halfway yet, I felt like this was a significant point in the race, where it really became a marathon. We were also well on the way to our own 13.1 point.
I had started thinking about a bathroom. I wasn't desperate but I did need to go. I didn't feel that it was realistic to get through the entire race without a stop, but I only wanted to stop once. I decided that I would stop at a port a potty after the halfway point if it seemed practical. I don't know if it was in anticipation of losing time in a stop or what, but I whipped through mile 13 in 9:14.
Just past the 13.1 mark there was a row of port a potties with plenty of open stalls. I zipped into one to do my thing. It was a good stop. I managed to squeeze out everything I had been hanging onto. I kept an eye on my watch because I didn't want to spend much more than a minute, but I also wanted to make sure I did everything I needed to. My split for mile 14 reflected my stop - 10:42. Given that I had been running 9:30s or faster, I am guessing I was in there about 1:15.
The 4:10 pacer passed me while I was in the potty. I figured he would. I could see the sign ahead in the distance after I started up again. I did a good job with mile 15 at 9:33, but I was never fast enough again to actually make up the difference and catch up to the pacer. I did have my second Gu in mile 14 after my bathroom stop. I also noticed at some point there that one of the water bottles had fallen out of my new fuel belt, maybe at the bathroom stop when I was fiddling with my clothes. For half a second I thought about turning back to find it but quickly realized that was crazy, and impossible. I saw someone else's dropped bottle along the way so it wasn't just me. Mile 16 - 9:38.
In Mile 17 we climbed the most significant hill in the marathon as we approached crossing St. John's Bridge. This hill was at least a mile long on the road, plus a little bit more going up onto the bridge as well. I just plugged up the hill at a steady pace. Mile 17 - 10:23. I'm actually quite pleased that my time was not even slower. I certainly felt slower.
St. John's Bridge was a big deal on the marathon course. On the approach there were many signs warning that only runners could go on the bridge, and apparently there was a "checkpoint Charlie" where they were checking for race numbers and D-tags. It's an amazing, beautiful structure and running across was a joy. I wish I could post a picture...maybe I'll go back later and put one in.
Edited to add this borrowed pic:
St. John's Bridge took us to the east side of the river where we would run most of the remaining miles before the finish. I had no sense of geography and only know this from looking at the map later. We ran the next number of miles on Willamette Boulevard.
There was a lot of downhill in the eight miles or so after the bridge. In fact, except for one short hill and the approach to Broadway Bridge near the end, I would say this last segment was mostly downhill or flat. Given that, my one doubt about my performance was whether I could have pushed harder on the downhills. Some of my splits seem a lot slower than they could have been. They're fine, but if I was ever going to catch the 4:10 pacer, I might have made up some time here. But I'll admit, I pretty much wrote off catching him after the hill before the bridge.
Part of this is also my marathon slump section. I'll admit, miles 16-20 (approximately) seem to be my hardest miles. Maybe even harder than the last 10K. I think the ten miles to go seems so far...but 10K is not so bad.
I have been writing as if this was all so easy breezy and not hard. That's not true. Marathons are hard, no matter what. I'll admit that I have pretty much wiped out any memory of stress in the first half...I do remember that as going pretty easy, at least once we got past mile 3.
I did go through mental gyrations throughout the race, trying to break up the distance without getting too overwhelmed by the total! My basic breakup of a 20 mile distance is, the first five are warmup, the second five are easy (you are warmed up but not yet tired), the third five are quality (maintaining a pace while you are starting to get tired), and the fourth five are endurance. But I needed to break it down even further. From 13.1 the next mental checkpoint was 15. Then 16, then every two miles to 20 (and two mile segments to the finish).
In the miles after the bridge, I was slumping a little bit and I could feel the downhill stress in my quads. I forgot to take a Gu in mile 18 but took it in mile 19. Mile 18-21 - 9:51, 9:41, 9:46, 9:53.
Then there were just five (or so) miles left! I think I got a second wind. I didn't bother to take any more Gu...I kind of wonder if it would have given me a bigger finish kick if I had taken the last one. I had already sped up a little in the final miles and I didn't feel like I was losing energy or anything. Mile 22 - 9:29. Mile 23 - 9:37. In mile 24 we had to go up a little hill onto Broadway Bridge...maybe I could attribute my slowing again to that? Mile 24 - 10:07.
Then, the craziest thing happened. We were back over the river and I was all prepared to make a final push to the finish. I had calculated that I had a good chance of finishing in 4:12. Then, just before the Mile 25 marker we saw ahead of us flashing lights and heard train bells and whistles and the track arm came down and we had to stop for a train. It was the Amtrak train and luckily not too long. I calculate that we stopped about a minute or a little more based on my split for that mile. Mile 25 - 10:45.
We headed out and I felt a little stiff and awkward after the stop (though I can't say I didn't enjoy the stopping while I was forced to) but managed to pick up my pace decently. If you can believe it the bells were clanging again at another crossing but I and those around me were able to cross before the arm came down. Mile 26 - 9:25.
Then another factor came into play that had a major effect on my final time. I had noticed that my watch splits were a little off the mile markers, but I wasn't too concerned because that often evens out. I am also aware that the final distance is always more than 26.2 but I completely failed to account for that in my calculations.
So after the 26 mile marker my sprint to the finish was not .2 mile, but in fact it was .45 mile. A full quarter mile extra. I am estimating that added two minutes that I hadn't planned on! Mile 26.2 - 4:12 for .45 miles at 9:16 pace.
When I stopped my watch after the finish line it read 4:15:39. I think I started it a bit early and I know I waited to stop it till after the finish line photo, so probably I can take a few seconds off that.
Since 4:15 was my secondary goal, I was really happy with my finish. The time I was pretty happy with, but the overall race was great! Other than maybe going a little harder on the later downhills, I think I did everything I should have done to have a successful marathon. I was happier at the end of this marathon than I have been since CIM.
I did feel just lightly woozy in the final mile (maybe I should have had that last Gu), and right after the finish. But I was fine by the time I posed for my "medal" photo.
I called my mom to tell her I was done and said I'd call her again when I was on my way to our meeting point at Starbucks. I worked my way through the post-race area, collecting my trinkets (commemorative coin and charm) and finisher's shirt. I drank a little cup of pomegranate juice (delicious) and had a couple of orange wedges.
Walking was just a little bit difficult. And slow. Luckily there were a number of people leaving, so I was able to wind my way out of the finish area and back toward Starbucks without adding any unnecessary blocks. I arrived and claimed a table right by the door just before my mother got there.
I ordered us mochas with a couple of my free drink cards and got a spinach and feta wrap for us to share. After we ate we walked slowly back to the hotel. It's only a few blocks....
I had planned and was determined to have an ice bath back at the hotel. Luckily our room was really close to the ice machine, so I emptied the ice chest and used it to transport ice. I hopped in the tub in my clothes (with a fleece top), started filling the tub with cold water, then got my mom to dump in the ice. I stayed in for about 15 minutes. Then I put on a hotel robe and laid on the bed to warm up before going back into the shower. I couldn't dilly dally too long as housekeeping hadn't made up the room yet and we wanted to go down to the lobby and give them the chance. (Unfortunately they didn't make it up until about 4:00 which was a little bit of a pain.)
Down in the lobby we ate maple cinnamon rolls that I had brought along. Later (finally back in the room) we noshed on pretzels to ward off hunger until dinner. We never really had a chance to eat lunch, but the cinnamon roll and pretzels did nicely.
The only remaining negative about this race that has not been resolved is that my chip failed and I don't yet have a recorded finishing time. My mother was quite disturbed when I seemed to drop off race tracking after the second split! I didn't know about that until after the end. I have sent in an email for a correction and hopefully it will all turn out okay. There should be a picture of me crossing the finish line and hopefully that will prove my claim that I actually ran the race! Should proof be needed.
We ordered dinner from room service and had a quiet evening. In the morning I went out at 7:30 and picked up drinks and breakfast from Starbucks. Then I had a 9 a.m. massage using another Living Social voucher. Very good timing on that offer!
After that I picked up sandwiches (and cookies) for our lunch at Bridge City Cafe, and we left Portland a little before noon.
So that is the end of my Portland Marathon story. Well, almost the end. I am still waiting on the race pictures and my recorded finishing time!
*Well, that and not pooping my pants. But that's a fear at any distance.
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