Eugene was my 8th marathon and my first stand-alone marathon since December 2008. I took a year “off” and did my first Ironman in 2009 and I was thinking of this as my comeback race. I was so excited to be back to running and had no interest in swimming or biking ever again (I haven’t done either since the Ironman). I had easily the best marathon training cycle of my life. It was just so fun! I had a new perspective after training for the Ironman and enjoyed the simplicity and flexibility of run training. My training paces were strong and besides some foot issues the first couple of weeks, I had no injuries. The main thing was that I didn’t stress out about my training and just had fun with it! As mentioned in my previous posts, I also made other changes in my life that impacted my training, the biggest one being yoga. It helped keep my body flexible and my mind focused.
We headed down to Eugene Saturday morning and got to the expo about noon. Zach was running the half marathon so we each picked up our race packets and shirts. The expo was pretty big but kind of cramped and crowded. The shirts are awesome though! After we left the expo we walked downtown and got a sandwich for lunch and then walked through the Saturday market. There were tons of people and local stuff for sale and musicians and everything. I bought a bunch of lavender to bring back to the hotel. Then we walked over to a plaza where there was a big drum circle going, it was awesome. I haven’t seen a drum circle since I lived in Missoula. We hung out there for a while enjoying the sounds and watching all the people and then finally made our way back to the car.
We drove across town and checked into our hotel- Best Western New Oregon Motel. It’s about 4 blocks from the University and the race start. We stayed at a different hotel just a couple blocks away last year but this one was way nicer. I highly recommend it! We walked over to the race start just outside of Hayward Field and it took about 5 minutes- perfect race morning commute! There was a high school track meet going on at Hayward and it was free, so we went in and watched for a while. The sun was shining and I just relaxed while Zach took some photos. I should mention that we got a NEW camera last week – a Nikon D5000. This was our first time really using it and it is RAD. Anyway, we finally left and walked back toward our hotel. The next thing we did was walk across the river to where Zach was going to try to catch me about mile 16 after he finished the half. It was good to see where he’d be. We headed back to the hotel and finally put our feet up for a while. Zach took a nap and I watched Dirty Dancing which I realized I’d never really seen from start to finish. Great movie, haha!
After his nap, Zach made a really clever thing for our water bottles- we were planning on carrying mini water bottles in our hands in addition to the fuel belts. So, he used duct tape to make a strap which he taped to the bottle. A homemade, disposable handheld water bottle! Genius. We both started with one, and then he handed me off a new one at mile 16. I should have taken more pics of this, but I’m sure we’ll do it again and I’ll post pics and instructions. It was a great idea!
For dinner we just went down to the Market of Choice which is a Whole-Foods like supermarket. We got some pasta salad and some chicken from the deli counter and grabbed a loaf of french bread. We just ate it picnic style back at our hotel and it was perfect. After dinner we got all our race stuff ready – chips on shoes, numbers on shirts, etc. Then I put on my iPod and did a little quiet meditation while Zach read. We got to bed about 10:30 and I actually slept really good.
The alarm went off about 5:00 but I had been awake for a few minutes. We got up and ate breakfast- I had some oatmeal with raisins and later ate a pack of Luna Moons. I got all lubed and sunscreened up and used the bathroom a bunch of times. We didn’t leave the hotel until about 20 minutes till the start since, well, since we could! It was nice not to bother with the loooong porto potty line. We got right in the starting corral and worked our way up to our proper pace area. Zach gave me a kiss and made his way up closer to the starting line. I chatted with some people around me and then we heard a beautiful rendition of the national anthem. I teared up! But then I put on my game face. Let’s do this!!
It was a pretty crowded race start but everyone was courteous and safe. We made our way through a nice neighborhood for the first few miles and a few of the neighbors were out cheering. The morning was beautiful with some clouds but mostly blue sky and it’s such a cute city, I was really enjoying my surroundings.
My goal was to not start out too fast so I was using my garmin to monitor my pace every half mile. I wanted to average about 8:20 overall so I figured I’d try to run the first half in about 8:10-8:15 to give myself a little room to fade at the end. A few of the first miles were a bit faster than that but not dangerously so. It seemed like it was a little downhill in places. And it felt easy!
At mile 3 or 4 we started a running up Amazon Drive which is really green and lovely. It’s a gradual incline but I hardly noticed it (last year when I was running the half and pushing the pace I definitely noticed it more!). Just before mile 5 it makes a noticeable climb before you turn around and head down the other side of the park. I ate my first Gu at mile 5 and was drinking water from my homemade handheld. I was feeling great.
Mile 1 8:05
Mile 2 8:07
Mile 3 8:19
Mile 4 8:07
Mile 5 8:27 (hill)
After leaving Amazon Drive, we got on a narrow bike path and made our way through the park. There were still a lot of people (the half marathoners don’t split off until like mile 10) but it wasn’t too crowded on the path. I tossed my handheld bottle at the aid station at mile 8. Immediately past the aid station, I saw Alisa! She and I had gone over plans for her to have water bottles to hand off to me if I needed them. I didn’t expect to see her at this stop because it is quite busy but since I did I went ahead and got a bottle from her. Thanks Alisa!! I know Amy and Brad were there too but I didn’t see them.
I was still right on pace and feeling great. The 3:40 pace group actually passed me right after I saw Alisa but I didn’t worry about it at all. I knew I was a minute or two ahead of pace and stuck to my plan. A short while later we were back out on city streets and we hit the only big hill in the whole course. Last year when I was doing the half this thing kicked my ass, but this time I just chugged up it. I remembered what Aron told me about keeping an even effort. After that we had a nice downhill and I took my second Gu.
Mile 6 8:11
Mile 7 8:09
Mile 8 8:24 (saw Alisa)
Mile 9 8:15 (hill)
Mile 10 8:13
We ran down toward the river but not along the path. It was pretty sunny at this point which I didn’t love, but there were clouds hanging around and I was hoping they would block the sun soon. The half marathon split off in the 10th mile which was a total mess- they didn’t have any signs! Only a couple of volunteers telling us at the very last second which way to go. I asked as I ran by “Full?” and figured it out. Annoying! The crowd definitely thinned out once we lost the half marathon runners. We ran the next couple of miles along this ugly industrial area and the sun was still shining down. This was one of the lower moments but I tried to remember that I’ll bounce back and not to worry. I could see the 3:40 group running ahead of me about a quarter mile and just kept them in sight. My pace was still good I just wasn’t feeling so hot. I wondered if I had gone out too fast? There was a little climb up and over a bridge which kind of sucked but I made it.
On the other side of the river I knew I was about half way and that was nice. We were in a nicer area too- the downtown streets and neighborhoods of Springfield. I started feeling better about mile 14. They didn’t have the half marathon marked (It says that in the results, but that was the 13 mile split) but I knew I was on track. My stomach was feeling kind of full but I forced myself to eat my Gu at mile 15- I had promised Emily that I would! (stay tuned for her Boston report which addresses this issue). I tossed the bottle Alisa had given me after finishing it- again, my stomach didn’t really want more of anything but I knew I had to take it.
Mile 11 8:19
Mile 12 8:29
Mile 13 8:22
Mile 14 8:27
Mile 15 8:26
I knew I would be seeing Zach soon which gave me a huge boost. Also, the clouds had moved in!! YAY! And the course had really flattened out and I knew that the next several miles were actually very slightly downhill. I was energized and running strong. My legs were feeling good too, although I did have a little side stitch at one point. When I saw Zach at mile 16.5 I was so excited and I waved!! He got some pics of me and then jumped in and ran with me. He handed me a fresh homemade handheld bottle. I asked how his half went and he said good! BIG PR. He’s crazy. Check out his blog for a race report soon. I told him I was feeling good and that I was just about a minute or two ahead of the 3:40 pace. He told me I looked strong and that he loved me. He ran up ahead and got a couple more pics and I told him “See you at the finish!” Not even a mile later, I saw Alisa again and this time I definitely saw Amy too and high fived them both. I didn’t need a water from them, just their cheers! It was so great to have friends out on the course.
After that I was feeling really good and my pace felt really smooth for the next few miles. We were running along the river path and it was very beautiful. I was enjoying the scenery. There weren’t as many runners around me but I was able to pace off of a few from time to time. I continued to feel good and my stomach felt better so I drank my water. I ate my last Gu at mile 20. My pace was a bit slower but I knew I could afford it. I hadn’t walked at all and wanted to make it to the finish with out walking at all – I’ve only ever done that 3 times before.
Mile 16 8:21
Mile 17 8:22 (saw Zach)
Mile 18 8:36 (saw Amy and Alisa)
Mile 19 8:33
Mile 20 8:37
We crossed the river on a footbridge and started working our way back toward the university. The nice little downhill was over and now there was even a bit of an incline in places. I tossed my handheld water bottle since I hadn’t even touched the bottles in my fuel belt and knew they would be enough now.
Not surprisingly, I started to get tired. My spirits were good because I knew I only had a few miles left and that I was doing good, but my “bank” of time was shrinking and I knew it was going to be close. I tried to pick it up a bit and I did have a couple faster miles, but I think that just drained me further. My brain resorted to those little tricks like for a couple miles I was just chanting to myself in time with my steps “Mile 23, just keep running. Mile 23, just keep running.” I knew I was so close but I was slipping. The weird thing was that I was passing tons of people. It kind of threw me off because I knew I was going slower.
I knew Amy and Alisa were supposed to be around mile 23/24 and when I hadn’t seen them I was actually glad. I knew I didn’t look as perky and that I couldn’t fake it. But, there they were, about mile 24.5. I think I smiled but it was minimal. Alisa jumped in and ran with me and told me I looked strong. I told her I wanted to die. I said if I can just keep running I will make it (under 3:40) she encouraged me along and was great. She gave me a slap on the ass and a little “go get ‘er done” and I was on my own again.
After that, it got ugly. I passed the 25 mile marker and still had over a minute in the bank (counting the :59 seconds they give you.. I was just going for 3:40:59 at this point). I was trying to count my steps to distract myself but couldn’t even do that. I felt awful. Within the span of about a quarter mile things just completely deteriorated. My legs got so tired and heavy, they just wouldn’t move. I hit the WALL. I could feel it happening. I could feel my body switching over to fat as a fuel source because I was OUT of glycogen. It was textbook wall hitting and it was UGLY. There is a little incline as you turn off the bike path and head up the street toward Hayward Field and that was about where it really hit. I ran up that hill but then my body slowed to a walk. I was done. I knew I was so close, only a half a mile left! I tried to tell myself “GO! JUST GO!” but it wasn’t happening. The legs and the mind were not communicating and there was no amount of willpower that could have moved my legs faster. I started running again but it was so bad, I had to walk again. I probably walked four times in that last half a mile. I hit the 26 mile mark and without really even looking I knew I wasn’t going to make it in the BQ time. I saw the field and it seemed like a thousand miles away. I ran into the stadium and struggled to pick up the pace to the finish. I flailed my arms and legs and just gave it every last ounce of energy I had. My form was total shit, my mouth was hanging open, I was a mess.
I crossed the finish line and immediately just collapsed. I didn’t pass out, but almost. It was a little scary. There were volunteers watching me come in and they saw it coming, and they caught me in their arms. I saw another volunteer coming with a wheelchair and they put me in it and wheeled me to the med tent. Somewhere in these few seconds someone put a medal around my neck. I noticed my watch was still running and I mashed it with my hand.
Mile 21 8:33
Mile 22 8:25
Mile 23 8:29
Mile 24 8:32
Mile 25 8:36 (saw Amy and Alisa)
Mile 26 9:17 (halfway through, WALL)
last 0.2 2:26 (10:00+ pace)
Official finish time: 3:41:17
35/197 Age Group
Once on the cot in the medical tent I felt quite a bit better. I was just so exhausted. The volunteers were great and got me water and gatorade. I saw Zach right away and was so glad he was able to get into the med tent and know that I was ok. I told the volunteers I felt better and they said I need to stay a couple minutes to make sure. They asked if anything hurt and I told them not really, I never did cramp up or anything. The guy a couple of cots down sure was cramping up though, and vomiting violently. Nice! As soon as they would let me I got out of there. We walked out and they clipped my chip off and I finally got a hug from Zach. I told him what happened and that I gave it my all. He was so proud of me.
It was an incredible race. I can’t believe I hit the wall SO late in the race- so close to the finish! I felt just amazing the whole time up until then. Who knows what happened. I don’t think I did anything wrong- I followed my plan to a T. I think the only thing “wrong” was that 26.2 miles is a ridiculous distance to run, ha ha!!
I feel really proud of my run and the effort I put in. I am really happy with how well I executed my plan and I really did run a smart race. At the finish I gave it everything I had and I know I could not have pushed it anymore. And hey, not too shabby of a finish time! It was my 3rd fastest time out of 8 marathons!!
It sucks that I was sooo close to the BQ time, I’m honestly not disappointed at all. I have run Boston twice and even though I would love to run it again someday, it isn’t a huge goal anymore. I would love to run it with Zach or at least watch him run it. But I have moved on and just want to keep running marathons and having fun. It’s kind of funny that since the BQ time is so close to my ability level that it is just always right there in my face, but I can choose to ignore that. That’s not what it’s about.
We had a great celebration after the race. I stretched out a bit and then we walked over to the hotel. I wasn’t hobbling too bad but was still really tired. I showered and we drove downtown to the Steelhead Brewer where Alisa, Amy, Brad, and Lori and her family were waiting. Lori had completed her first marathon! We had a great time talking about the race while eating food and drinking good beer. It was really fun. We drove home and of course I zonked out and slept the whole way. We spent the evening watching hockey – the Sharks beat Detroit again – and wrapped up a perfect day with a huge amount of Thai food.
I’m really sore today and thankfully have the day off work. Emily is coming over shortly and we’re going out for brunch. :) I’m going to try to do some gentle yoga later to stretch out.
I don’t know exactly what is next for me… I know a lot of yoga and running this summer, along with some backpacking and hiking and I think I’ll finally get back on the bike! We have a big trip to Europe planned for September so not sure what fall marathon plans look like, but there’s lots of time to figure that out. I know I want to run another marathon soon! I think that is another mark of my success at Eugene, that I finished wanting to do another. I just love it so much.
Thanks for reading, and for all your encouragement and inspiration!! Big thanks so much to Zach for all his love and support, and to Alisa and Amy for supporting me out on the course (and always).
And now, pictures. LOTS of pictures.
Driving down to Eugene:
In the hotel, our new camera!
Relaxing, emailing or facebooking or something:
Mile 8 (that’s the 3:40 group right behind me)
Getting ready to grab bottle from Alisa:
Not feeling so good:
Zoomed in on my wonky form and slack-jaw face:
Approaching finish line:
Done and done.
Hey I bounce back quick!!
Another with Hayward Field behind me:
I’m the most flexible person in the finish area:
Walking back to the hotel I stopped to cheer some runners to the finish:
And now, we celebrate:
Heading straight to give Alisa a big hug:
Then I shoved my face full of nachos:
A couple of race champions ready to head back to Portland:
Thanks for reading!!