Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let's finish this Eugene thing!

I'm heading to Portland tomorrow for the Rock 'n' Roll Half, so I think it's time to finish with the Eugene Marathon before I get yet another race under my belt.

I left off at the end of the day Saturday.  Sunday morning I set my alarm to wake up a little before 5 a.m., so I could eat breakfast two hours before the 7 a.m. start. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of whole wheat English muffin with Justin's Maple Almond Butter (my fave) and marionberry jam, plus some of the Americano that I had stashed from the night before. Since we were staying a short walk away from Hayward Field, I had plenty of time to lie around and read before I had to get ready to go.

My race outfit was laid out already--Lucy tank top, Asics shorts, and a thowaway sweatshirt from Goodwill. I pinned my bib (with embedded chip) onto my fuel belt. Sometime between 6:15 and 6:30 we left to walk the short distance to the start.  The race started on the side of Hayward Field that was near the Law School. On the way over I stopped at the porta potties on the opposite side of the track, which had no lines at all!

I had been assigned to Corral A because I (optimistically) put 3:55 as my finishing time estimate when I registered in October 2011. However, since I saw the 4:00 pace group at the front of Corral B, I moved myself back. I didn't even want to run as fast as the 4:00 group, but I didn't want to start ahead of them! I had considered running with the 4:15 group, but I never saw the 4:15 pacer. I figure I was ahead of them in the first half and then they probably passed me during my second half bathroom stop.

Above--Law School in the background. Below--entrance to Hayward Field. I would see this again 26 miles later as I entered to finish the final .2 mile!
I really wish I had finished writing this more quickly after the race happened, because as time passes my memory becomes less clear. I feel like it is all still fresh in my mind, but as I try to write about it, details become fuzzy....

The weather was perfect, cloudy and probably in the lower 50s to start. I was wearing a sweet grey sweatshirt from Goodwill. I told Rod I would toss it when I got too warm. He offered to take it before the start, but I told him I wanted to keep it on for a few miles. I know the thought of me throwing it away bothered him!
There I am at the start. I had the 4:00 pacer in my eyesight and I kept up with him for about two minutes, then happily let him go. I had no intention of burning myself out by trying for 9:00 miles at the start.

The first eight miles or so was essentially an out and back south on Amazon Drive and then back toward Hayward Field. Although the course is depicted as flat, the road inclined and declined periodically which made it more interesting to me than pancake flat would be. My first mile was a bit impacted by congestion and warming up my legs, but was pretty good at 9:45. I then sailed through the next seven miles at a happy 9:30-ish pace. (9:28, 9:25, 9:30, 9:33, 9:23, 9:32, 9:31).

The "hill" that everyone mentions was after the 8-mile point, as we ascended 19th a bit and approached my B & B. I wondered if Rod would be outside watching for me, or inside eating breakfast! I had planned to take off my jacket at mile 5, but I kept it on for a couple miles longer, then carried it toward the B & B. I figured I could either leave it with Rod or perhaps throw it in the bushes and retrieve it later. Rod was in fact there on the street corner, and snapped my picture before I ditched my sweatshirt at his feet.
I had probably slowed a little on the "hill," but we got to go down the other side, so that was great. What wasn't so great was my need to use the bathroom. I don't expect to get through a marathon without a stop, but I don't like to do it so early on. But the need was feeling rather urgent, and somewhere in mile 9 (just before the 10-mile point) I saw a big bank of potties and ran off course for as quick a stop as I could manage (I am not the speediest stopper). That made mile 9 clock in at 10:52 (though my "moving time" was 9:34).

Mile 10 - 9:44 (back on track). We had moved into one of the park/running trail segments, near where the half marathoners would split shortly before the 11-mile mark. Suddenly I saw a girl stumble and fall in front of me. I decided to stop and help her. I stood with her as she gathered herself together, and encouraged her to resume running and offered to run with her a bit. I felt like we stood still for a long time, but my split for mile 11, including the stop, was just 10:17 (9:31 moving time). I asked her if she was running the half or full. When she said half, I wished her well and sent her on her way at the split.

The next few miles went smoothly enough, though I left my 9:30 paces behind. Miles 12-14 were 9:54, 9:48, 9:46. My half marathon split time was just a few seconds over 2:07:30, right on track for a 4:15 marathon. That was pretty encouraging, seeing that I had lost more than two minutes in my two stops. If I could avoid further delays, all I had to do was average 9:45 miles. (So much easier said than done.)

Unfortunately, the bathroom need came upon my again, and in mile 15 I once again jumped off course to a potty. I had actually been looking for one for a couple of miles. They were fewer and farther between once we left the half marathoners behind. Luckily for me, I didn't have to wait (though I did have to go through some bushes to get there). It cost me, though--mile 15 - 11:28 (9:55 moving time).

Even though my pace was slowing and I had those stomach issues, I really wasn't suffering too much. Mostly I was playing mind games, setting goals to run to instead of looking at the big picture of 26.2 miles. My touchpoints were 5K, 5-mile, 10K, 10-mile, half marathon, 15, 16, 18, 20...and every single mile thereafter. I always think I'm going to "push it" after mile 20 (then reevaluate!). Miles 16-21 - 9:54, 9:57, 10:09, 10:12, 10:09, 10:10.

I had planned to take Gu at miles 8, 13, 18, and 23. Because of passing the B & B, and then the first bathroom stop, I didn't take my first Gu until mile 10. I took another at mile 15. I think I took my third and final one somewhere after mile 20. I was feeling a tiny bit nauseous, and just took little bits of it periodically. I had also been drinking Nuun out of my water bottle, but started in the upper miles taking water periodically at the water stations. It helped wash down the Gu and it was a change of pace.

The sun had come out sometime after 10 a.m. and I put on my sunglasses. I could feel the warmth but never got uncomfortably warm. It did get warmer in the afternoon and I was glad not to be running then!

I didn't really manage a kick in the last 10K. In fact, my slowest running miles (as opposed to the miles with stops) were miles 22 and 23. I think I was letting myself cruise a little, with a more realistic plan to push myself in the final 5K. Mile 22 - 10:22, mile 23 - 10:35.

Since we ran into Alton Baker Park at Mile 16, we had been running along the Willamette River. We ran on one side up to mile 21, then crossed over and back along the other side until about mile 25.5. As I was in those final few miles, I could see other runners still on the opposite side of the river. I was so glad not to be them!

Somehow I did manage to find another gear and pick up the pace for the last three miles. Mile 24 - 10:01. Mile 25 - 10:02. Mile 26 - 9:25 (my fastest since mile 6!). The last mile was so weird--we seemed to be running through a field, alongside warehouse or box cars or something like that (can't remember clearly, except for the grassy area surrounding our running trail). Then we were back on Agate Street and approaching the gate to Hayward Field. Onto the track, for .2 miles at a blazing 9:03 pace (yes, my "sprint" was at 9:03). I crossed the finish line just as my watch passed 4:21 (the time clock was a few minutes ahead, and my chip time was 4:21:09).

I wandered into the finishers' area and tried to find Rod. Although I hadn't seen him (I was watching the finish line, not looking into the stands), he had been in the grandstands and took a picture of me on the track. But he couldn't come down into the finishers' area because it was fenced off.  Luckily he did see me as I was walking toward the exit and we met up outside it.

We walked the quarter mile or so back to the B & B, then he went off to get us pizza while I soaked in a cold bath, then showered and changed. Here is the picture I sent to my mother (pre-bath) to prove that I had survived....
In addition to the cold bath, I fueled myself to ward off leg cramps by eating a banana, a couple handfuls of salted pretzels, and a dill pickle that I had packed along in the ice chest for this purpose. I don't know if it made any difference or it mattered, but I did not suffer any leg cramps!

Later that afternoon, after some yummy thin crust pizza and rest, we walked back to the U of O campus so Rod could try shopping at the Duck Store again. Since I had done my shopping on Saturday, I just went on to Starbucks and drank iced tea at a table in the sunshine. This was one of the first opportunities all spring to sit out in the sun! (Our weather had been quite dismal.)

Later that evening we went back to Agate Alley and I had the exact same burger and sweet potato fries as I had on Friday night. Once again, delicious.

On Monday we drove home and that was the end of the Eugene Marathon trip!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

We interrupt this Eugene race report...

For a 12K (Bloomsday) and a 10K race!

I can't believe tomorrow will be two weeks since the Eugene Marathon. Although, in many ways it feels like a long time ago.

After my four-day weekend trip to Eugene, I followed my four-day work week with a four day weekend trip to Spokane for Bloomsday, a huge 12K event. I've run it annually for several years--2012 was my fifth time. Last year I pulled off a surprise PR (1:04:55) two weeks after the Boston marathon. This time, a week after Eugene, I had no plans for a PR. I just hoped I wouldn't embarrass myself (I think I figured anything slower than a 9-minute pace would be unfortunate).

My parents and I drove over on Saturday morning via I-90. It was a surprisingly easy drive, especially after we got out of the east King County cluster and up and over the pass.

We got to the Davenport Hotel in mid-afternoon. There we encountered a small problem. The valet parking did not have me on the list of people with hotel reservations. I whipped out my confirmation and saw that we were confirmed to arrive on...May 4. Friday. Oh. My. God. The valet parker was sure they could find a room for us if I checked inside. My mother was grim.

I went to the front desk and explained what happened and luckily they did give us a room (it would have been a long trip home!). We got the same type of room, same rate, but it was a handicapped accessible room. They probably hold those rooms back in case they are needed. I don't know yet if I got charged for our missed night. I had reserved the room with a card that I subsequently canceled (due to fraud). So I don't know if they would have been able to charge it or not.

After we got in with our many bags (I travel with lots of little bags, plus food), my dad and I walked over to the Expo and bib pick-up. It was mobbed but well organized. I got my stuff quickly, then we split up for an hour of browsing. I ended up with a new NuuMuu (running dress) to wear in the race, and some Tevas for fun (discount if you buy two or more pairs!). I did get a little shopping fever. Luckily I didn't find anything else I had to have.

Later we went to Cafe Europa for dinner. My dad wasn't thrilled with his pasta, but that was probably an ordering fail on his part (lesson--he only likes calamari if it's fried). I had pizza and liked it (half went back for a future meal). We were too full for dessert, but we remedied that in days to come.

Sunday morning I got up at about 6:30, got coffee from the lobby, and ate my English muffin with AB and jam in my bed. The race didn't start until 9. Around 8:15 I headed out to do my warm-up, stopping back at the hotel for a final potty stop before going to my corral (yellow). It was extremely crowded, as always. The weather was cool but not very, so it was easy to ditch my Goodwill sweatshirt.

We took off and, as usual, I felt the crowds held me back from fully exploiting the downhill start. If I ever feel up to a really good Bloomsday, I need to get closer to the front of the corral! Mile 1 was 8:48, and it should have been closer to 8:30, I feel. Oh well.

Even though I was a few seconds slower per mile than last year (I'll spare you the mile by mile comparison, yes, I did it), I was pleased that I was able to hold a decent pace. There are 3-4 hills (including the famous Doomsday Hill), but also a lot of downhill. I think I was strong on the uphills but really could have/should have pushed harder on the downhills.

It was pleasantly warm, but not so much that I felt unbearably hot at any time. Doomsday Hill followed a long downhill, so averaging kept me at a respectable 8:59 for that mile. They had mats at the top and bottom, and my "hill time" was four minutes. So clearly the hill was less than a half mile in length! What always frustrates me is the struggle to get back on pace after a hard hill. My mile after Doomsday was 9:00, even though the hill was finished and it was flat thereafter! Perhaps it included a little bit of the end of Doomsday.

I did manage a little kick in the final half mile. My overall splits--8:48, 8:34, 8:53, 8:40, 8:59, 9:00, 8:40, and .53 at 8:24. Final time 1:06:01, average pace 8:46.

It took a good 10 minutes to walk through the finishing area and get my shirt. Then I met my parents at Madeleine's for a delicious breakfast--pancakes with maple butter (genius invention) and we shared a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit.

Waiting for breakfast, and my new NuuMuu.

Later (after a shower, change of clothes, and rest period) we walked down to Riverside Park and Spokane Falls.

My parents by the Falls.

Race shirt and Tevas.

Traditional "bench pic."

Group self portrait.

Frappucino Happy Hour at Starbucks. We party hard!

That night for dinner we ate assorted leftovers and then I picked up some decadent desserts to share. We took it a step further on Monday...after a drive to Coeur d'Alene and lunch at the Coeur d'Alene resort, we picked up cheese and crackers and fruit at Safeway, followed by dessert redux. Tuesday we drove home on Highway 2, which was very scenic but made for a much slower, longer trip.

Prior to Bloomsday I had run only once after Eugene, but this week I resumed a more normal schedule. I ran seven very slow miles on Monday in Spokane (legs were tired and I was listening to an audiobook). Wednesday I returned to the track (after four miles warm-up) for six quarter-mile intervals (1:59-1:53) (total seven miles). On Friday I did seven miles or so at a moderate effort.

Finally, today I ran a 10K in Mukilteo with hopes of working on my speed a little more. I had hoped for sub 52 minutes, but could only manage 52:46 (about 8:30 pace). My first three miles went quite well, but I struggled in the second half. (Averaging was my savior.). That could be because the first half was a downhill grade, and the second half had more uphills...also, it was getting warm! No pictures, no age group award (the top three in my AG were sub-50...quite rightly). I did about 1.5 miles warm-up before, and half a mile after, for a total of about 8.2 miles today.

Tomorrow I am anticipating my first double digit run!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Some people PR'd in Eugene....

I wasn't one of them. But that's okay. I had a good race, and a good weekend, and I would do it again, if I ever decide to repeat a marathon. My time? 4:21:09. Here's my story.

We left around 8:30 a.m. on Friday to head for Eugene. It's about a six hour drive from Marysville/Everett (less if you ask Rod). I drove for about two hours then handed the car keys over to Rod. I felt a little bad about him doing almost all the driving but really, he prefers it. That left me free to read magazines and my iPad and doze a little. We made two bathroom stops at rest areas on the way and split a sandwich that Rod had brought along.

We arrived in Eugene around 3:00. First we stopped at a gallery in downtown Eugene to touch base with the owners who are friends of Rod. (He had lived with them when he was in law school 20 years ago.) We looked at some of the artwork and made plans to have dinner at their house Saturday night. Rod offered to make spaghetti, a good alternative to trying to get into a restaurant on the night before the marathon.

The gallery was located very near to the Hilton downtown, so we then walked over to the expo and number pick-up. I quickly got my bib and after a little confusion, found the marathon race shirts as well. I didn't really get a chance to fully get into the expo because I felt the pressure of being there with someone who didn't want to check out every little thing and browse the merchandise. (This also happens with my mom, who gets tired, but she is happy if I find her a chair where she can wait.) I didn't really have a huge shopping urge anyway, especially as I had already bought three shirts from Run Pretty Far at the Whidbey expo a week before (they were in Eugene too). I kind of wanted an official race merchandise shirt of some kind, but again, there was a damper on my shopping. So I left with only my race shirt, and in a little bit of a snit. (This also could be because I was hungry. I got one bite of a Clif bar sample but again, the company was not as amenable to grazing as I might have been alone.)

From there we went to check into our hotel, the Secret Garden Bed and Breakfast. This is a nice old house very near the campus, extremely convenient to the marathon start and finish. It has pretty rooms and decor and was a good place to stay for the race, despite some organizational problems which put a little bit of a damper on our stay.

Our plan was to make an easy hike up to Spencer Butte before going to have dinner. I insisted on fuel (for both of us), and whipped out granola bars (from Whidbey!) and bananas. I may have consumed a few pretzels as well.

Spencer Butte is a small mountain (I think I can call it a mountain) on the outskirts of Eugene. There's a great view of Eugene and miles surrounding it from the top.  There are about three ways to hike up it, of varying distances. We chose the trail from the Fox Hollow Trailhead, which is two miles each way. There is also a trail from Willamette Trailhead (don't know whether the total distance is more or less) and a newer trail (new to Rod, since he lived in Eugene) which is the easiest, just a mile each way.

The weather was great, partly sunny and in the 50s. We had driven down through constant rain, and even as we approached Eugene we thought it would be raining there, but the clouds parted and the skies cleared for our arrival. (It never rains in Autzen stadium....)

The first mile and a half up the trail is a pretty moderate trail, mostly uphill with some rollers. It's a well maintained trail without a lot of obstacles. In the last half mile it gets steeper and rockier, and then the final quarter mile or so you are pretty much climbing over rocks with patches of trail. It would be very easy for a seasoned hiker but it was definitely more than a leisurely walk. I hoped that doing it on Friday would allow my legs to rest from the effort by Sunday morning.

When we scrambled to the top, Rod perched on a big rock that was really the top, but I didn't want to go quite that high. I stayed a couple feet lower and still had an amazing view. In addition to all the views of Eugene, there were also big hawks cruising around. This might be related to the "Raptor Center" we passed along the way.

I was concerned that the trip back down might be hard on the legs, but it was okay. I did end up with muddy shoes (I wore a spare pair of running shoes--of the three pairs I brought) as well as mud on the legs of my jeans! The next day Rod said he was pretty sore but I felt okay. By Saturday evening I could feel some tension in my glutes and inner thighs, but I was okay on Sunday morning, thankfully.

We headed back to the B & B ready for dinner. Instead of driving somewhere, we walked a few blocks down 19th to eat in a local cafe, Agate Alley Bistro. Agate Alley had a varied menu with a lot of tempting options. I regret that I never got a chance to try their signature dish, Pumpkin sounded so good, but I really wanted a burger. I had the Agate Alley Burger with bacon and Tillamook cheddar, a side salad and sweet potato fries with a yummy maple dijon dipping sauce. (Spoiler alert--I had the exact same thing for dinner after the marathon too!) Rod had the lamb shank which he said was fine, but he felt the tomato sauce was a little ordinary.

One of the things I often say when I travel to a marathon a few days before the event is, "I'm so glad I don't have to run a marathon today (Friday) or tomorrow (Saturday)!" On Saturday we did some things to entertain Rod. We were lucky enough to be in Eugene for the Ducks' Spring Game! Yea! (All of the Oregon players were divided into two teams, the Fighting Ducks and Mighty Oregon, and they played each other.)

After breakfast Saturday morning we picked up Rod's friend Dick and caught the free bus to Autzen Stadium. The game started at 11 but they opened the gates at 10 for festival seating. We were near the front of the line and found seats directly above the 50-yard line. The game itself was about two hours long. I thought it was two quarters, so you can imagine my dismay when, after two quarters ended, they went to half time! However the second half was just two 10-minute quarters with the clock running, so it went pretty fast. We were done by 1:00.

We dropped Dick at his gallery and headed to lunch at a little restaurant not far from the University bookstore (I can't remember the name). I had a veggie sandwich that was very tasty and a cup of tomato cheddar soup, also very good.

Then we went to the bookstore. Otherwise known as the Duck Store. I must say that it is interesting how we had to fly through the expo with very little time for me to consider buying anything, but we were able to spend hours (more than a single hour, anyway) in the Duck Store perusing every item in the clothing section at least once, plus the sale and clearance racks two or three times. After all that, Rod couldn't decide on anything he wanted but I left with three tee shirts in hand.

Finally we headed to Safeway to buy groceries for dinner. While Rod shopped, I picked up an Americano at Safeway to save for Sunday morning.  I had to ensure I had my pre-race coffee! We went back to the B & B to rest a bit then over to Dick and Lynn's house to cook and eat.

That is, Rod cooked and I ate...pita chips before dinner (carbs) and a healthy serving of spaghetti with meat and mushroom sauce. We also had fresh mussels caught by a friend of Lynn (I only ate a couple, just to be cautious), salad greens from the farmer's market, and wheat bread made by Lynn. Here's our splendid table..note the giant bowl of spaghetti. The meat sauce bowl looks so small, both because of of perspective and also because the rest of the giant pot was in the kitchen.
Then Lynn brought out a plate of sweets from the Sweet Life Patisserie. Oh dear! I had a sliver of cheesecake (about 1/4 of a small piece), a sliver of Key Lime Pie, and half of a chocolate torte pastry which was to die for. This put me over the top full, which I would have prefered not to be, but I figured it would wear off by 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

After dinner we sat around on Dick's vintage contemporary leather furniture and Dick and Rod chit chatted. (By vintage contemporary furniture I mean furniture that is not so old as to be antique, but it was contemporary style furniture from the '30s, 40s, etc.) We left at 10, a little later than originally planned, but that was okay.

Back at the hotel, I laid out my clothing and gear, set out my morning food, and headed off to bed. And it looks like I will be writing a separate post about the race itself!