Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Race Report: Portland Marathon 2011

I know, I know!  I haven't been here in ages.  And I am truly sorry I haven't updated here in a while.  Life has been crazy, but thankfully good and I have been plugging away at work and training.  I wanted, more than anything, to post my Portland Marathon race report on here to give you all a glimpse into what I have been working towards.  Training has been priority #1 next to work and family and finally this past weekend I had a chance to give it my all and see if I could hit my goal.

Running had been going really well, I have been nailing all my workouts for the most part and really enjoying this training cycle - even though I was SO ready for race day to come.  As you will see, the stars sometimes don't always align on race day, but these are the days and races that make us stronger and hungrier for more.  This is the post I put up on my Daily Mile account so if you already got to read it there, thanks.  I am more than ready to keep my head down and keep plugging away at my new, big goal of sub 3.  Thank you to all of you who continue to support me through Daily Mile and twitter - I thought of all of you as I ran on Sunday and it kept the fire lit under me as I ran my heart out. 

And, as usual...it's a long one ;)  Grab a cup of coffee and settle in!

Where to start, where to start!?!
Sorry this is a bit late, but I was traveling home and recovering from this and I wasn't sure what I wanted to say just yet.  I had a lot of obstacles to overcome this weekend and the race and I am not sure how much I want to give credit to all of it.  So, I am going to just give you all of it (there is a lot, grab a drink and settle in!) & hopefully you'll see where I am coming from ;)

Friday when we arrived in Portland at our hotel, it was NOT like the hotel on Expedia that we booked.  It was a dump - reeked of cigarette smoke, filthy and just plain scary.  I couldn't stay there and we panicked as we attempted to find another hotel.  I will admit, this sent my nerves for a tail spin, but after a couple of hours we found another, better hotel and all was well.  We spent the evening with some family and trying to rest up.

We slept in on Saturday and got up and decided to drive the course.  I did this in Eugene and it helped a lot.  Once again, this proved smart.  I had been hearing over and over again that this was a PR course and great for racing.  Well, driving and running parts of it scared the crap out of me.  There were a lot of hills, a lot of bridges and even though I am good at hills, the placement and degree looked challenging.  I tried not to let it scare me too much and just use the info we gathered as best as I could.  I made lots of notes on the maps, and that afternoon & evening went over them and the map TONS to make sure I knew what was ahead.

Fast forward to race day morning.  I slept pretty well and woke up ok.  We got ready and I thought I had taken care of “business” at the hotel so I wasn’t too worried.  Also, it wasn’t too cold out so that made me feel better.  We parked, got my stuff together and I said good bye to the hubbs who was going to see me around the ½ mile mark on his bike.

I waited in the corral area and used the bathroom a few times.  But by now my nerves were a wreck.  I started to feel a bit sick to my stomach and tried the bathroom again.   Nothing, so I figured that once I started I would be ok.  I was in the first corral and they don’t do “elite” status for this race, so I had all the fasties around me.  After the national anthem, I lined up next to two ladies about my age and we exchanged goals.  Both were going for sub 3 and only one had done it before.  This was perfect – my rabbits!  I should also note, we were just ahead of the 3 hour pacer.  I was also wearing the 3 hour pace band that was specific to the course – which means it took the hills and stuff into consideration for mile splits – very helpful.

When the gun went off I felt great!!  The weather was perfect, low 50’s and light rain, it wasn’t too crowded and my legs felt right on.  So, I went with it even though I was a bit ahead of my 6:45/mi pace goal and the pace goals on the pace band.
Mile 1 – 6:35
Mile 2 – 6:38
Mile 3 – 7:05 (BIG HILL)
Mile 4 – 6:37

By the time I was starting mile 5, my stomach went crazy.  I felt sick and nauseous right away and got all sweaty and hot.  I had to use the bathroom, NOW!  I wanted to cry, there was nothing I could do to push this down and I was freaking that this would be the end of my sub 3 goal.  I tired to stay calm and ran to the first bathroom I could find.  I was in there forever it felt like, but I also wanted to take my time so that it would be the ONLY time for the day.

When I came out I felt good again and started to find my stride.  I also caught back up to the 3 hour pace group so my nerves were calmed once again.
Mile 5 – 7:48 – potty stop
Mile 6 – 6:40
Mile 7 – 6:44
Mile 8 – 6:50

Even though I was feeling good, I could NOT get down a GU or any water.  My stomach still felt off and I was afraid to chance it.  But I also knew I couldn’t run a marathon without any fuel.  The whole time, the hubbs on the bike was trying to get me to eat a GU, and I would open it and try to get some in before it would make me gag and I would throw it away.  Up until mile 8, I maybe had a little bit of GU, but not even a ¼ of a whole one. 

Once again though, in mile 9 my stomach flipped and I had to go again!!!  I was right with the 3 hour group and we were starting a 2 mile out and back section.  I didn’t want to stop but I had to and I was once again feeling like this was the end of the race.  No GU in me, 2 potty stops, what the hell!  So I stopped once again and hoped for the best.  I came out and felt a ton better and wanted to hit the half strong. 
Mile 9 – 8:10 – potty stop
Mile 10 – 6:48
Mile 11 – 6:52
Mile 12 – 7:04 (HILL)
Mile 13 – 6:52
13.1 – 1:32:04 – 7:02/mi pace

After the half I knew we didn’t have much more time until the next big hill was coming.  I still hadn’t taken but maybe a swallow of GU or water at this point and I was worried.  I felt strong but my stomach was just off.  I couldn’t  feel myself start to fade but I knew it would only be a matter of time with no fuel in me.  I also had lost the 3:00 pacer after the potty stop.  I was just behind the 3:05 pacer and knew I could catch him and just ahead of them I could see the 3:00 hour guy once again.  I didn’t think I had it in me to catch the 3:00 guy and this is where I had to switch gears.  There was nothing I could do to get my sub 3 now, the hand I was dealt wouldn’t allow for that so I had to refocus my goals and shoot for anything close to that.  I will admit, it was a HUGE blow.  I was running well when I wasn’t in the bathroom, but I also had no fuel in me and a hard section of the course coming.

Just after mile 16 you begin your climb up the St. John ’s Bridge.  The climb up this is something like the climb up
Lincoln Blvd.
in the SF Marathon – only this is at mile 16-17!  My energy was fading here but I knew I was strong up the hills  so I made it my goal to pass the 3:05 group up the hill.  And yes, I passed them no problem and got across the bridge into some more flat sections.  I was feeling a lot better in here and found my stride.  I was just between the 3 hour and 3:05 guy and this felt doable.
Mile 14 – 6:49
Mile 15 – 7:00 (real mental breakdown – reassess goals)
Mile 16 – 6:59
Mile 17 – 7:33 (HILL)
Mile 18 – 7:09
Mile 19 – 6:56

Through this section I had zero energy.  I honestly don’t know what kept me going other than I knew I had so little miles left and was so close to my goal.  I was on auto pilot .  The crowds were good through this neighborhood and I attempted to feed off them and kept going.  But, once again, my stomach had other plans.  I tried to push it down and tell myself I only had a few miles left but it wasn’t working.  I felt so defeated.  I had no clue what to do.  Do I stop?  Do I keep going?  I wanted so bad to be sub 3:05 at least now and knew a potty stop would ruin that.  But I had no choice and I stopped once again in mile 21.  This time, I wasn’t in there but a few seconds as I just had nothing left in me.  When I came back out I was RIGHT with the 3:05 pace group and jumped in and told myself to just hold on.

Mile 20 – 6:49
Mile 21 – 7:14 – potty stop, slight hill
Mile 22 – 6:49
Mile 23 – 6:56

I was moving pretty well with the group.  We had some big hills to get over once again in this section.  We had to go back over the river and the bridge just ate my legs up.  At this point, I was so done.  Physically and mentally.  My legs were toast from the hills and the lack of fuel.  But I had to keep going, I was so close.
Mile 24 – 7:57 – HILL!!!

When we came off the bridge back into downtown and I knew we just had over 1.5 miles to go, I felt so good mentally.  I was going to at least get my sub 3:05.  I  knew I could out kick the pacers and I knew that I had a bit more in me.  I also knew at this point I was 11th or 12th woman and I wanted to keep that in my sights. (A spectator told me this more than once).  As we were winding through downtown towards the finish, all of a sudden the train barrier came down and we were STOPPED FOR A TRAIN!!!  I screamed!!!  Literally, I screamed, “NOOOOO!!!”  I wanted to cry!  Really, after everything I had been through?  They warned us that trains were a possibility, and that most likely people later in the race would encounter them, but not us at the front.  But here it was, mile 25 of my hardest marathon and I was STOPPED!  They had also said a race official would be at the train crossing to take down bib#’s, but there wasn’t one, only a cop.  The pacers had no idea what we should do.  Everyone was pissed, screaming, swearing….at MILE 25, to be sopped was awful!  Also, when I got to the gates coming down, I totally could have ran across, the train was at least 30 seconds away.  But the cop stopped me and I had to wait.  We were stopped an almost full 2 minutes!!  By the time the gate went up, the pacers said hold on and run!  I knew sub 3:05 was gone but I was now trying to beat the clock and at least PR (sub 3:08:36).  When we stopped, there was probably 12-15 of us with the pacers, after the stop, only 2 of us could keep up. 

We ran hard and we ran fast.  I don’t know where this came from.  I had DEAD legs, ZERO energy and just wanted to be done.  We had to bob and weave the half marathoners who were walking but it didn’t matter, I was sticking to those pacers like white on rice!!  I found my stride but my legs just felt so gone. 

The finish of this race for me was the hardest ever.  I had no emotion other than to just finish.  As we hit mile 26 and I began to look for my family, I had this overwhelming feeling of sadness.  I just ran the hardest race of my life, gave everything I had and still ended up short.  We finally crossed the finish line and the announcer said my name and that I was woman #12 – not even the top 10 I wanted.  The second I crossed and stopped, I burst out into tears.  I held this back for so long.  I was so deflated, so defeated.  The finish line was just a line – I felt like I hadn’t reached my goal or accomplished anything for the day.  I was sobbing, the volunteers were thinking I was injured, but all I could say was, “I WAS STOPPED BY A TRAIN!!”  There were ZERO race officials around so I gathered my schwag, blanket, and water and tried to find my family.  I was crying so badly.  I was so sad.  And I was mad I was crying.  I ran a great race, still ran fast and PR’ed, but didn’t feel like it.
Mile 25 – 8:30 – TRAIN!!
Mile 26 – 6:50
Mile 0.2 – 2:46 – 6:53/mi

Official Results:
26.2 – 3:06:40 – 7:08/mi
12th woman overall/ 4,405
144th overall/ 8,386
3rd AG (30-34)/ 753

Garmin Results:
26.4* – 3:06:40 – 7:04/mi
*the race website said the course measure with a Garmin at 26.37 - so I guess I naile the tangents pretty well once again.

I am a few days out from this and feel slightly better.  I want you to know I thought of many of you out there today as I ran.  I know I had a lot of obstacles to overcome from the upset tummy to practically taking in ZERO fuel the whole race.  That, in and of itself, is huge and I can recognize this.

Also, THIS IS A HARD COURSE!  It is NOT a PR course, don’t let anyone tell you that.  It is deceiving.  I am good at hills, I love hills, but this race is tough, and you better be mentally ready for it.  It is a beautiful city and AWESOME crowd support, volunteers and organization, but don’t go there thinking you will set the world on fire.  It is tough, and I feel so beat up physically from this race.  I haven’t been this sore after a marathon in a LONG time.  Granted, I know that I went into a huge deficit by not fueling and that will play into my recovery, but this was marathon #11 for me and I have felt better and stronger after harder races.

I am more and more determined that I will get my sub 3 SOON.  I have said it before and will say it again, the stars have to align on race day for you to reach your goals.  Had my stomach behaved, had there been no train, I would have maybe got my sub 3 here, but the course is hard.  I probably would have come in 3-3:01.  I know now though, that in December, at CIM, sub 3 is possible.  I am right on track for it.

Thank you to all of you for your continued support through this training cycle and journey.  Like I said, I thought of many of you out there as I ran.  I promise, that sub 3 is right there and I can taste it!  Also, I will probably have my time adjusted for the train, they will probably put my time around 3:04:40, which would put me as 9th woman overall and an even bigger PR ;)  I’ll let you know when it happens.  Thanks again peeps! 
Happy Running!