Monday, May 2, 2011

Race Report: Eugene Marathon

Before I dive into the awesomeness that was the Eugene marathon this past weekend, I need to say I am so sorry I have been absent from the blog world.  I assure you I was reading, usually on my phone, but my ability to comment or update here has been hard.  Life got busy, life got rough, life threw me some major curve balls this past month +  and I just needed to focus on getting through everything.  Thankfully though, life has calmed down, things are beginning to look positive again and hopefully things will continue to stay positive and back to its regularly scheduled programming.  Thanks for understanding ;)

Among all the craziness that was my life, the streak...came to an end :(  I was doing really awesome, too, but life had other plans for me and the weekend before Eugene I came down with the flu!!  I was on day 108, I had managed to stay injury free the whole time, I was logging 110+ miles each week!  But sometimes you can't control it all and the flu caught up with me.  I was devastated...I even ran one of the days just one mile to try and keep it up, but I was just knocked out with the flu and was forced to take two days off.  And just like that I was reminded...all good things must come to an end.  I had a great streak: I ran well, I learned so much about myself, I became a better runner and person, it gave me structure and an outlet to keep me sane when life got crazy - it served it's purpose when I needed it most.  You can better believe though that I started up once again and this time I'm hoping, baring any injury or major life crisis, that I will surpass 108 days!  I'm thinking 365 days sounds pretty dang neat!  I want to be like my friend Shelly ;)

So...on to the race report of my life!!!  Sorry, it's long - you know the drill, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and sit back and enjoy!

All week I was just feeling "off."  My first run back coming off the flu and the "forced" rest days I felt like garbage and I wasn't sure if I was going to even be able to run Eugen like I had been training for.  I had visions of last year's Boston and Big Sur creeping up on me - I had the flu right before those last year, too!  But I was bound and determined to make sure I would get there and enjoy it and run as best as I could.

The hubbs, aka "running Sherpa," and I drove up to Eugene on Friday morning.  After staying up all night with my mom watching the Royal Wedding, we jumped in the car and made the 577 mile drive up to Oregon.  The hubbs had never been to Oregon and we were actually excited for our "little 9 hour" road trip.  We hit every type of weather you can have while driving there, from heat to wind to rain and even snow!  We arrived early Friday afternoon and right away I went for a run.  Yeah, that run was awful!  And I was immediately worried that I was aiming just a little too high.  I was forgetting though, I was living off zero sleep and just sat in the car for 9 hours.  After a quick 5 mile run we enjoyed the town of Eugene.  If you are not familiar with Eugene, it's the running mecca of the world.  It's home to the Oregon Track Club, Hayward field, and the roads and trails were Prefontaine himself ran.  It's rich in running history and the town never lets you forget you are right in Oregon Duck country ;)

Saturday the hubbs and I slept in and then went out for another quick 5 mile run.  Thankfully the legs felt good this time around and I even was able to hit some MP miles while I was out there.  It was just the confidence boosting run I needed.  I finished up the run and spent the rest of the day driving the race course, stuffing my face full of pizza and attempting very hard to not focus on the fact I was running a marathon the next day!

All week the weather said a low of 47 - perfect for this running wimp.  But Sunday morning, race day, we were greeted with 32 degrees and frost!  Argh!  Oh well, the lack of wind made it not so bad and we walked the mile together from our hotel to the start line.  Right away I could tell this was going to be a great day - even if I didn't meet my "A" goal time.  The start area was filled with electricity.  Right away the hubbs and I noticed that the majority of people who were there were "runners."  You know the type, hard core runners.  Everyone looked and played the part well.  I was excited to be surrounded by such awesome talent!

The Sherpa and me (he's going to kill me for this one!  Sorry honey bunny!)

After using one of the zillion port-a-potties a few times, it was soon ready to line up in the starting corral.  I said good-bye to the hubbs who was going to meet me at the top of the first hill on his bike, and stood in the front of the first corral with runners who all had the same goal as me - sub 3:10 or better.  I wasn't sure if this was even possible that morning though, I had even taped on my wrist the 3:15 pace band because I was sure that would have to be my "B" goal for the day.  But I still decided to line up in front of the 3:10 pacer and hope for the best.

After the cutest little 8 year old girl sang a great rendition of the National Anthem, the gun went off and I right away felt great!  The pack of runners was thick, and within the first 1/2 mile you are greeted by your first "hill."  It really isn't that bad, maybe a 10th of a mile up, but many people were already slowed down by it.  The 3:10 pacer even caught up to me and I soon found myself behind the large back of runners who were attempting to pace off him.  The 3:10 goal pace is a large BQ for many men, so it was a LARGE pack.  I tried to stick with them, but just past the first mile marker I had to get out from there.  So I decided to speed up and pass them.  At first I was worried this could use up too much energy and I could pay for it later, but I knew I had to find my own stride and go with it.  I passed the big group and I was finally out from all the crowds.  There were a lot of half marathoners in here, but it wasn't crowded by any means and I decided to just go with it.  My legs felt really fresh and my kick felt good, too, so I decided to see how long I could hold my pace.  I was, at this point, thinking I would just try to hold this for as long into the race I could and if I bonked...well then, I bonked.
mile 1 - 7:08
mile 2 - 7:02
mile 3 - 7:09
mile 4 - 7:13

The pace I needed to get a 3:10 was 7:14's and for 3:15 was 7:26's.  At this point I was banking some time and I was hoping it would pay off in the end when I would need it.  Around mile 4 I started to realized I really had to pee!  It was bad, we were in an out and back portion and I was trying to stay focused and I just couldn't - I had to go and there were no porta potties.  I was also thinking that maybe I could just hold it and that the "urge" would eventually go away.  At mile 5 I took my first Gu and instantly felt a good surge from it.  But it was short lived since I had to go so.damn.bad.

I knew that between miles 7 & 8 was the big hill of the course.  I was trying to stay focused and even through here since I wanted to conserve some energy for it.  But damn, that urge to go was bad.  When we turned a corner and saw the big hill in front of us, I knew there was no way I could make it up that hill without peeing my pants, so I found the first port-a-potty and dove in!  Man, it felt like it took forever!  But as soon as I was done I met back up with the 3:10 masses and passed them again before tackling the big hill.  It was a good thing I stopped, I finally felt clear headed and tackled the hill good.  And, what goes up MUST come down, and on the down I took full advantage of it before we were dumped back on the road passing the start and finish line once again.
mile 5 - 7:07 (gu)
mile 6 - 7:04
mile 7 - 7:06
mile 8 - 7:37 (potty break)
mile 9 - 7:10

I will be honest, that potty break made me worried.  Before it I had about 200 meters on the 3:10 group and I was now trying to hold a steady pace and continue to stay in front of them.  But the whole time I was feeling really good.  In fact, I had to hold myself back at times.  There a were quite a few times I would look down and see my Garmin showing sub 7's and I knew that would not be smart so I would rein it back and just try to focus on my stride.  The crowd support was pretty good through here, too, which really helped.  This was also my first full marathon where I didn't wear my iPod - and I am so glad I didn't.  I could really pay attention to myself, my breathing, my form and just soak in the historic paths we were running on.

Around mile 10 you cross over the Willamette river and onto the bike trail that follows it.  This is also were we split from the half marathoners.  It was good to get away from them.  Finally the paths would open up and it would be easier to navigate the more narrow trails.  This section is just beautiful, with the river next to you and tons of beautiful trees.  I tried hard to soak it all up.  When I hit mile 12 I saw 1:2X:XX on my watch and knew that I was going to hit the half well ahead of the 1:35 I would need.  This was just the confidence I needed, and when I crossed the half timing mat in 1:34 and change I was right on target.  Again, I was feeling so fresh in here and just enjoying the whole run.  I wanted to pinch myself I felt so good, because still, in the back of my mind I was convinced it would eventually come crashing down and I would feel like garbage.
mile 10 - 7:09 (gu)
mile 11 - 7:14
mile 12 - 7:13
mile 13 - 7:10

I was nothing if not consistent.  I pulled back when I needed to and pushed it when I needed to.  When I hit mile 14 and I realized I only had 12 miles left it felt sooooo good!  I run 12 miles all the time!  And by doing some math in my head I knew that even if I slowed down a ton, I would still have the 3:10 in my sights.  I also was running with the same people at this point.  They were all as consistent and strong as me.  So it was good to have a few regulars around me.  At mile 15 or so we had to cross over a large overpass.  My strategy for the hills was to go up them by feel and not burn out.  I knew I would make up time as I went down and got to flat ground.  I couldn't believe how many people were already walking the hills, especially at this fast pace!  But I held onto my pace going up and didn't feel burned out at all.  And when I hit mile 16 and just 10 miles left, it started to feel soooo real!  I could finally see that my goal was totally possible. 
mile 14 - 7:10
mile 15 - 7:12 (big hill + gu)
mile 16 - 7:06 (gu kicked in!)
mile 17 - 6:58

After 16 I was feeling like I was on top of the world!  I was so in tune, I felt so fresh and felt so good!  I had to rein in my emotions because we still had some race left and as you can see, for a bit there, my emotions got away from me and I even ran a sub 7 by accident.  I quickly realized this though and began to scale back.  At this point though, things began to hurt.  My right leg was feeling tight, my right achilles started to ache (WTF? It NEVER hurts!) and my kick started to suffer.  I didn't know what was going on but this is what I had feared.  I had been running so consistant, so strong and then out of no where my leg started to ache and act up.  I tried hard to push it out of my head and began to tell the hubbs, who was on the bike next to me, to keep my focused.  I was complaining to him...a lot.  He was great though, and kept reminding me to stay focused, watch my kick, push through it.
mile 18 - 7:08
mile 19 - 7:13
mile 20 - 7:12 (gu)

Up to this point I was still very consistent.  And with just a 10K left I was still feeling confident, but in pain.  I was so upset, things that were hurting had never hurt before.  I was becoming mentally drained.  The peeps around me that had been just as consistant as me were beginning to fade too, but I tried to stay focused.  The hubbs was planning on leaving me around 23.5 to get to the finish and see me and now, the thought of not having him out there to keep me focused made me worried.  I was pushing through this crazy leg pain and so fearful it was going to come crashing to a halt at any second.  In here we were on a bike path that had some un-easy footing.  It was hard to find my footing and my kick and I just felt so off.  Around here too, some women came out of no where and started passing me.  I attempted to stick with them but I was afraid of kicking too soon so I let them go and stuck with my group.  When my watched beeped a 7:19 mile for mile 21 I got scared!  I wasn't ready to see that!  So I dug deep in here to make sure I didn't see one of those again!  Right before the hubbs took off I decided to take one more Gu - each time I took one I always felt good within a mile and I knew that was just what I would need to get me through the last 5K.  I took a Gu at 23 and said goodbye to the hubbs in hopes I would see him before the clock said 3:10.  I had been working so hard out there the whole race, I was going to be damned if I let it get away over a little bit of leg pain!
mile 21 - 7:19
mile 22 - 7:16
mile 23 - 7:24 (gu)
mile 24 - 7:17

After mile 24 I didn't feel the Gu kick in.  I was getting worried, and one guy who had been even more consistant than me began to fade bad.  I tried to kick away from him but I just couldn't shake him.  We both were fading.  People started passing me and I just felt so bad.  I felt like the race was being lost with less than 3 miles left!  When I got to mile 25 and my watch once again beeped 7:26 I freaked!  I did not want to finish like that!  So I decided to kick with everything I had.  And I'll tell you, it wasn't much.  I felt like I had energy but my leg was just killing me!  I could push but my right leg did not want to respond.  So...I zoned out.  We were running through a beautiful park, along a beautiful river, the sun was shinning, crowds were cheering and I was running the race of my life.  I put the pain out of my head and focused on getting to the finish line strong.  I eventually dropped Mr. Consistent and just put my head down and ran.  There was a chic who had passed me earlier ahead of me now I set my sights on her.  I eventually caught up to her and passed  her - she kicked too soon.  When I got to the mile 26 marker my Garmin beeped 7:09!! and I switched my watch over to over all time.  I saw 3:07:xx!!  It was JUST what I needed!  I rounded the corner and saw the finishing shoot and took off!  My leg pain would NOT hold me back!  In the final tenth mile I could hear the crowds, see the entrance onto Hayward field and saw the hubbs cheering me in!  I kicked with all I had and finally crossed the finish line in 3:08:36 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
mile 25 - 7:26
mile 26 - 7:09
last .2 - 1:11 - 6:12/mi pace

Official Stats:
26.2 miles - 3:08:36 - 7:12/mi pace
26.2 miles - 3:08:38 - 7:12/mi pace (ran the tangents perfect!)

I screamed in excitement once again when I finished!  And of course...started crying right away!  I felt amazing!  I was in so much shock, I ran the race of my life and everything went according to plan.  There are no words to describe that feeling when I finished.  All of my crazy screaming and excitement once again got every volunteer out there wanting to put my medal around my neck ;)  I grabbed my medal and a bottle of water and started looking for the hubbs.  I did stop though and look around - I had just finished the marathon of my dreams on HAYWARD field!  Home of many Olympic Track Trials and the famous Organ Track!  It was not lost on me.

I felt great afterwards.  My right leg did not hurt - grrr!  I wasn't sore, I wasn't gimping around like the rest of my fellow runners - I just felt...amazing ;)  I quickly found the hubbs, put on my jacket and just relived the greatest last 3 hours, 8 minutes and 36 seconds of my life.

I am still on cloud 9 today - that is the only way to describe it.  I did everything right out there.  I stuck to my plan, I stayed focused with my eye on the prize and didn't let myself waver too much even when my leg was killing me.  Funny thing, it doesn't hurt at all today.  It didn't even hurt yesterday as I took the one mile walk back to our hotel.  I even sat in the car for over 9 hours on the way home yesterday and it's just fine.  Who knows what aggravated it - maybe it was the uneven pavement, maybe it was one wrong step - who knows - but I am thankful it doesn't hurt anymore.  And that just goes to show you, anything can happen during 26.2 miles - what it also shows me, its not how the pain affects you, it how you LET the pain affect you.  I pushed the pain down and showed myself I am stronger than it. 

When I started the race I only wanted to run a smart race - and the goal of hitting sub 3:10 even in the starting corral just felt like a pipe dream.  Today, I know that faster is possible.  With some tweaks to my training, I am now believing that even a sub 3 is possible...soon.  All of my crazy miles, all of my crazy double days paid off.  My legs never got tired out there, I never felt out of energy and I do know that it was all due to my crazy miles and doubles - they were used to hurting! LOL!

I would recommend this race to anyone who wants to run in the footsteps of the greats.  It was so well organized, the volunteers were amazing, the scenery was out of this world and the course is PR worthy.  Put Eugene Marathon on your list of "must-do" races, it is worth the travel to the crazy little town of Eugene, OR.

I am not sure what is next for me.  Of course I have an urge to find another one right away to start ticking away at that time.  I know faster is possible and I am hungry for more.  Right now only SF Marathon in July is on my books, but I will find another between now and then.  I hope next year, when I go back to Eugene to run, I will be seated in with the elites - you need a sub 3 to line up with them.  Before yesterday it seemed like a pipe dream, today it's not a matter of "if" it's now a matter of "when."

Thank you to all of you for your encouragement and support - I thought of many of you yesterday as I ran.  I talk to so many of you on Daily Mile and Twitter that you all know who you are - so thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I'm off to catch up with all of you - many of you, like Marlene, Denise, Aron, Page, Tara, Kristen and Alyssa had great races this weekend! Congrats ladies!!  Oh, and send LOTS of healing vibes to our buddy Tonia - she had a bit of an accident yesterday :(

Happy Running Peeps!
P.S.  Here is the video the Sherpa took of me right before the finish - I have watched it a zillion times and tear up each time!  I still have to pinch myself that yesterday actually happened!