Thursday, May 3, 2012

Marathon Mania!

So the big day (well, two big days, if we're counting my birthday into this) has come and gone. And it was epic!

Saturday (Marathon Eve)

Around 1pm, my friends Peter and Michael picked me up, and we headed off to Eugene. On the way there, we passed one of these signs.

This was when I realized that Portland is closer to the North Pole than it is to the Equator. Remind me again why I live so far north in the Northern Hemisphere. I digress.

By the time we arrived and checked into the hotel, it was nearly 4, so we had to head to the Expo before they closed at 6. While there, we ended up getting a boatload of Clif Gu. And Lauren Fleshman was there selling her Picky Bars. Being the running nerd that I am, and having read the profile of her that Running Times recently published (the profile that contained some of the advice I heeded when easing back into running after my bout of Achilles tendonitis), I was starstruck upon meeting her. (How does one mentally prepare for such events??)

Anyway, after my mini celebrity sighting, we headed back to the hotel and walked over to the starting area (so we knew how to get there in the morning). We also walked around the University of Oregon's campus.

I'm sure you all want to hear about the pre-race dinner (well, assuming that you love food as much as I do, and that you want to hear about carbo-loading). However, finding a good place that didn't have a 1+ hour wait was a long adventure. Let's just say that "Third time's the charm" and "All's well that ends well." Still managed to be back in the hotel and in bed by 10:00 (which is more than I can say about NYC Marathon Eve).

Sunday (Marathon Day)

The race started at 7am, which meant that we had to be up early. I set an alarm for 5:15 and Peter set one for 5:40. Of course, I think we were all brewing with excitement/pre-race anxiety, so we all woke up at 5. I definitely had a dream about running a race (not this one though). Pre-race breakfast consisted of oatmeal, half a banana, and water. I did my standard warmup routine after breakfast. We snapped a few pre-race photos before we left. The hotel was only about 5 min away from the start, which served as a great warmup run.

Soon after I entered my corral, I found a runner with a NYRR t-shirt on. Naturally, I had to start a conversation about NYC. After chatting for a bit, we each went off to do our warmup stretches. Soon, it was time to line up for the opening ceremonies. And by ceremonies, I mean the National Anthem and a welcome speech by Meb. (Yes, the one and only Meb came to Eugene!) I have no idea what he said, but he was there. After this speech, the gun was fired, and we all trotted across the starting line.

Part of me was trying to take in the Eugene scenery, but the other part of me was working toward my lofty goal. I finished the first mile in about 7:20, which was way faster than my target pace of 7:37. My mind tried telling my body to slow down, but my body didn't listen. I was about 50 feet behind the 3:15 pace group, and I figured that if I were a good distance behind them, then I was in good shape. I kept this pace up for at least the first 10K. Around the 10K mark, I met this woman who was running the half (there was also a half-marathon that started at the same time). In our brief conversation, I gathered that both of us ran the Portland Marathon in 2010, and that she thought she was going too fast for the 1:36-1:38 finish she wanted to pull off. (She was actually on target for that.) I also met someone else who was running the full and wanted to run sub-3:15, but he was not much of a conversationalist. He did mention how he had run 3 marathons in a 15-month period (this period ended in April 2011). I then thought about it and realized that between NYC, Eugene, and Chicago, I'll have run 3 in a 12-month period. Clearly, I'm crazy.

Around mile 10, the course goes onto paved running trails, which was awesome. I think I was at about a 7:24 pace, but the 3:15 group was still nearby. The scenery over the next two miles of trails was amazing. We crossed the halfway mark, and I was relieved when I saw that the clock said "1:37," because it meant that I hadn't gone out super-fast and PRed for a half-marathon with another half left to go. I then had to sing Bon Jovi's "Woah, we're half way there, Woah, livin' on a prayer" to myself. 

I think the 3:15 group started to break away around mile 15, but I don't fully recall. What I do recall is going back on some more awesome trails around mile 16. We also got to run along the Willamette River! It was so peaceful. Actually, it was too peaceful. There were times when I was the only runner around, and the few spectators who were present were too quiet. (C'mon people, it's the second half of the marathon! We need some energy!) Around the 30K mark, I got tired enough so that doubt caught up with me. I had to squash it in order to finish, and so I used the first means I could think of -- essentially dedicate  each of the remaining miles to a different supporter. And in doing so, I broke up a 7.5 mile stretch into 7.5 segments. Around mile 24, I caught up to this runner, and he decided that he wanted to have a conversation. I was not in the mood. There were 2.2 miles left, and I needed to finish them. With half a mile left, we got back onto the streets (yes, that's right -- we were on trails for almost 10 miles) and were on the home stretch. 

Once I got into Hayward Field, I could see the finish line and the clock. From then on, the only thought in my head was that I had to break 3:25. With about 50 yards left to go, some announcer called out my name, and I immediately threw my hands in the air. I may have also had a dopey grin on my face, and I may have done a little dance as I ran to the finish. And all of this may have been captured on video. But I didn't care. I PRed by over 8 minutes, and broke 3:25 (official time: 3:24:28, 7:48/mi pace).

Krusteaz had set up a pancake station in the finisher area, and volunteers were handing out pancakes. Mmm pancakes. That hit the spot as I waited for Peter and Michael. While I waited, I saw the New Yorker from the starting area again. As it turned out, he only finished about 2 minutes behind me. Anyway, the rest of my time in the finisher area goes something like this: get some free food, find my friends, get more free food, join in on these Texans' cool down/core stretching routine.


Was I disappointed that I didn't break 3:20? A bit. But I broke 3:25, which was my goal for the 2009 Portland Marathon and the 2011 NYC Marathon. And given that I fulfilled a three-year-old goal, I couldn't be happier. Furthermore, to accomplish that after all of the injuries (IT band, piriformis, Achilles tendonitis) I incurred during my training made it monumental.

I don't typically like running the same race more than once, but I'd run this one again. 

The duck was happy. I was happy. And we all finished. Victory all around!

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