Hi everyone - I'm back, and here with my race report! I finished in 4:45, which I'm thrilled with! I'm just going to paste in the email I sent out to my friends and family today, so some of it might not make sense to you and it's a bit long - but I'm sure you can follow through it. Ennay, glad to hear it went well for you - it was so nice to get a chance to say hello in person! (and you made my race report, as you'll see further on). I've come home to Chicago to hear absolute horror stories about what happened here this weekend, so I am so incredibly grateful that my first marathon wasn't here. The organizers had the nerve today to get on the news and talk about how well they adapted to the weather conditions - don't know how they have the guts to say that when from what I've heard, there was a serious lack of water and gatorade at the aid stations, and medical treatment was pretty iffy if you weren't in total distress. The only good stories I've heard was how people in the neighborhoods jumped in with hoses, water from their homes, access to cell phones, etc. to help runners in distress. Anyway...on to my report of a more pleasant marathon experience:
This weekend I ran in the Portland marathon, and since I’m also approaching another birthday soon, I’ve been reflecting a lot about this past year, and how fortunate I am to have people like you in my corner. Two quotes have been rolling around in my mind all week. One is from one of my favorite columnists from Runners World (John “the Penguin” Bingham, who was himself a “late onset” runner): “The miracle is not that I was able to cross the finish line, the miracle is that I had the courage to start”. A lot of that courage for me came from having the love and support from my friends and family over this last year (and for that matter, during my first 40 years too), so for that, I thank you. You will never know how much your encouragement has meant to me. This past week has really brought that home to me, as so many of you have reached out to offer words of advice, and to wish me well in the race. Even before hitting the first step of the race, the experience has been truly wonderful, and I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity to appreciate the people in my life. You were all in my thoughts throughout the day.
The other quote is a line from an Emily Dickenson poem, “Dwell in possibility”. This has been a big part of what has made my 40th year a milestone year in my life…between discovering a long distance runner within me, starting a job that I actually enjoy, and traveling to India (and soon to Antarctica), it really has been a year of discovery about who I am, and realizing that if I’m not happy with things in my life, the possibility to change them lies within, and the time to do it is now. Anyway, enough mushy stuff, I’ll move on to the race report. If you’re not interested, do not feel obligated to read it, but for those of you who have expressed interest, this is a blow-by-blow account of how it went.
Mile 0 – 2: I’m up like a shot at 4:30 this morning, very excited to finally have race day here. At 6:30, Sara drops me off downtown a few blocks from the starting area, and I join the stream of 7,500 runners headed to the starting corrals (and yes, corral is the right word, I do feel like part of a herd of cattle). Everyone is in good spirits, chatting and excited. I meet several other out of towners, including a woman from Denver who says the rest of her running club is running the Chicago marathon today. We congratulate ourselves on coming to Portland instead – the forecast for Chicago is 88 and humid. Here, it’s about 55 degrees and slightly overcast, ideal weather for a marathon. I line up behind the 4:45 pace sign since I’m hoping to finish in under 5 hours, and I think I might be able to do even a little better than that. At 7:00, the first group of runners starts…it takes a little while for the wave start to bring my group over the starting line, but we are soon underway. The first stretch is crowded, but not as bad as the Chicago half marathon I did a few weeks back, and within half a mile, I’m able to comfortably set a pace. I start out at what feels like a nice easy pace, then check my ipod - ack! I’ve started at 8:48 per mile…given that my fastest mile to date is 8:40, this is way too fast. Amazing what a little adrenaline and anticipation can do. So, I quickly rein myself in and slow it down. I chuck the long sleeved t-shirt I was wearing to keep warm by mile 1.5 – one less PeopleSoft remnant in the wardrobe. The tank top and knee length running tights are feeling like just the right wardrobe choice for the weather today. And the weather gods smile on us – we have no rain during the entire race, and even a little sunshine here and there.
Mile 2 – 6: This is the first out-and-back, south through a stretch of downtown Portland, so lots of friends and families are there cheering on runners they just dropped off (and the runners they don’t know – crowd support was really great throughout the whole race). The first of two significant hills on the course come in this stretch, with a total elevation of 115 feet. It’s early and legs are fresh, so no problem at all. And, since the later hill is only 150 feet in elevation, it’s a good confidence booster to know that a hill this size is no big deal. We return back to the starting/finish line area, then head out to the northwest for the next part of the course.
Mile 6 – 12: A second out-and-back stretch, running along the river through more industrial sections of downtown Portland – lots of trains and shipping docks, so not the most scenic part of Portland, but it’s flat so I’m not complaining. I settle into a steady pace and cruise along, this part of the race seems to pass very quickly. I see the only injury of the day that looks like a race-ender here, one of the runners is on the side of the course having what looks like a sprained ankle attended to by the medical staff and looking bitterly unhappy. On my way back, I also see someone cut across from the outbound lane to the inbound lane…since I think there was a timing checkpoint near the turnaround, this seems very odd, I still haven’t quite figured this one out.
Mile 12 – 18: We make a turn through the downtown streets which takes us away from the docks and rail yard area and continue northwest along the river heading toward St. John’s Bridge, which is the second major hill and the source of much of my pre-race nervousness. Fortunately, Sara drove me past the bridge yesterday so I could see the elevation really wasn’t that bad, but I am still mentally focusing a lot of energy on how I’m going to tackle the hill when I get there. We pass 13.1 miles, the halfway point, yippee! The bridge looms in the distance and seems to take forever to reach, but inevitably, I reach the approach, mile 16-17. Even though many runners are walking at this point, I have decided to try to run the entire elevation, and am able to do so. Reaching the midpoint of the bridge is the highest point of the course, and I remember what a veteran Portland marathoner told me this morning – make sure to look around and enjoy the view from the top of the bridge – and he was right, the view toward downtown is beautiful (although I wish downtown appeared a little closer…since I know that’s the distance we have to return to the finish line). The sun has even come out for a brief moment. Unfortunately, I see a runner with his shoes off, and what is clearly blood seeping through his socks. I feel for him – there are still 8 miles to go, and that’s a long way to run with feet that are in that much pain.
Mile 18 – 22: We’re now running southeast back toward downtown through some residential areas on the north side of the river. This was the toughest stretch of the race for me…I didn’t exactly hit “the wall”, but I think I was so focused on getting over the bridge that I am now experiencing a bit of an emotional let down. And – let’s face it – the legs are getting tired. I’m now exceeding the longest run I’ve done to date in training, 20 miles. The wind has kicked up a bit, and we’re running into it which doesn’t help matters. Having some issues with a pulled muscle in one of my hamstrings to boot (that run up to the bridge took a bit of a toll after all). So, I decide to try walking for a stretch…but quickly realize that as soon as I stop running, my legs feel as if they are turning to concrete. So, I just gut through it, keep things moving and eventually the hamstring loosens up and the miles do pass, although quite slowly. I get a nice bit of encouragement from another runner who passes me – she must have seen I was struggling a bit, and she gives me an encouraging smile and tells me that I’m doing great. It gives me a little boost – as does the moment later on when I caught up to her and passed her
Mile 22 – 26.2: We’re into the home stretch now – I’m reminded of what one of the runners on an online forum I visit said recently. She said she’s like a horse heading to the barn by the end of the run. (She’s running here today too – I met up with her to say hello in person at the registration expo yesterday, yet another great experience for the weekend). I’m thinking a lot about the bubble bath in Sara’s tub that awaits me…my “oats” are not too far away now. The course is mostly downhill now, which is certainly easier from a cardio standpoint, but is a bit tough on the legs, especially for a gal from the flatlands of Chicago – this is hitting muscles that aren’t used to running on an incline. I know we have one more bridge to cross into downtown, the Steel Bridge, and I’m praying that there isn’t much of an elevation to it…fortunately, when it comes into sight, it’s very clear that this will be a piece of cake compared to St. John’s Bridge. We cross over the bridge and enter the last mile, through the downtown section of Portland again. There are spectators everywhere cheering us on. A runner passes me at a dead sprint. Unbelievable that he has that much energy left, I am totally impressed. I’m picking up my pace a bit, but certainly nothing like that!
The Finish Line: Finally, the finish line is in front of me, and I hear the announcer call out my name as I cross. Quite a moment - I have to say I shed a tear or two there. Thank goodness, there are volunteers there immediately to wrap me in a space blanket (the cool air feels a bit different as soon as you stop moving), hand me my finisher’s medal and clip off my timing chip. I move into the finishers area, and grab a little food – I had read chocolate milk was the perfect recovery drink based on its ratio of carbs to protein, so I drink down a bottle, then eat a banana and a chocolate chip cookie. All of a sudden, I start to feel a bit queasy and light-headed at the same time – bleh, this is worse than I felt the entire race (I may not be able to face chocolate milk ever again). Feeling like I might just faint, I sit down in a waiting chair for a few minutes and eventually feel stable enough to get back up again. I continue collecting the finisher’s goodies – a few symbols of Portland, a rose and a Douglas fir seedling, and a pin. Wait in line to have one last photo taken by the course photographers…while waiting, I chat with a runner from Texas who was rather bitter about the course, he thought it was much too hilly and said this was his first and last marathon. Guess I’m feeling a little more positive, since I’m still talking about running Chicago next year (maybe not after reading the newspaper reports on the troubles at the Chicago race later on). The gal in front of me starts to look a bit green as well, so she goes to sit down…perhaps too much chocolate milk for her too. I get my picture taken, and now I’m ready to leave the runners area and meet Sara, Jamie and Kate at the reunion area. There they are, waiting and I tell Kate that I “won” the race, just as she hoped I would – I certainly feel like a winner. One more goodie bag full of snacks to collect on the way out (turns out to have some more chocolate milk in it – this is quickly turned over to Kate and Jamie as there is no way I have any interest in chocolate milk at this point). We take the train back to Sara’s neighborhood, where I immediately hop into a nice, long, hot bath. The recommended recovery routine is an ice bath, but that sounds sooooo unbelievably unappealing, regardless of what it is supposed to do to speed recovery. After that, much lying about watching football, rehydrating, making a few phone calls to share the news of the day, and then a nice celebration dinner out, the perfect end to the day. I’m in bed by 10:00 and sleep like a rock. I wake up with some pretty sore legs, but fortunately, Sara scheduled a massage for me that helps tremendously. I head to the airport wearing my finisher’s shirt, and I think about half of the staff at the Portland airport congratulates me or asks how the race went for me. As I write this, I’m on the plane on my way back home to Chicago…a bit tired, a few aches and pains, but very happy about the weekend.