Monday, June 06, 2011

Newport Marathon Race Report

My 9th marathon is in the books! It was a doozy. It was a long, hot, exhausting run and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to finish. But overall I’m very happy with how it went and proud of my performance.

We left for Newport about noon on Friday (it’s a rare Saturday race) and the weather was gorgeous. Warm and sunny. It’s been an especially cold and rainy spring here in Portland and the sun felt great. But by the time we got to Newport and checked in I was starting to worry about how warm it was. It was only supposed to be in the 60’s that day and it was mid to upper 70’s. Even at the coast where it is usually really mild. The forecast for race day was mid 60’s as well but I could tell that was going to be way off. I haven’t run in any kind of heat this year and was worried about the race.

Zach and I checked into the hotel and I picked up my number. Zach told the volunteer that he wouldn’t be running so they set his number aside. He was bummed but knew he had made the right decision. It was early in the afternoon so we had tons of time to kill. It was totally hot in our room (AC is generally not a thing on the coast) and that made me nervous. We walked down to the beach and it was much cooler and windy there. We walked around some shops and saw some of the course that runs through town. I was in a pretty bad mood – super nervous and anxious about the race in general but specifically the heat. Zach was really patient with me and did make me feel better. We decided that I would just adjust my plan and be ready for the heat and it would be ok. We went out to dinner and had a really nice time and I even had some wine. We went back to the hotel and lounged around, got all my race stuff ready, and went to bed.

The alarm went off and I woke up to a beautiful morning. There were a few clouds but it was already 63 degrees and it was clearly going to be a hot one. The race started at 7:00 which was nice. I ate oatmeal and half a piece of toast and we headed out. Last year when Zach ran this marathon, he missed the shuttle and didn’t want to wait for the next one, so we walked the one mile to the start. We decided to do that again this year again- it’s a nice warm up and I got to hang out with Zach instead of randoms. We got to the starting area with about 20 minutes to spare – just enough time to wait in a long porto potty line and use the restroom before the start. Zach got a bunch of pictures and wished me luck.

My plan was to run a pace in the 8:30’s from the beginning. This is much slower than I usually start my marathons, but I was hoping that by starting slower I would be able to maintain that to the end rather than crash and burn. I was hoping to finish about 3:45 which is an average finish time for my previous 8 marathons (PR is 3:36 and PW is 3:55). I was wearing a watch so I could keep my splits but wasn’t wearing my garmin, which left a little more of my pacing up to me. I was worried I’d go out too fast. The race doesn’t have chip timing so when the gun went off I started my watch. It took me about 15 seconds to cross the starting line.

The first three or so miles wind through town and the Nye Beach area. It has a couple little hills and lots of turns. I started mid-pack and had to dodge around a lot of people. It was rather crowded with lots of slow people ahead of me. It was beautiful and fun and the first few miles went by fast. I was very happy to see my first mile was right on pace, and I kept it there for this first section. There was a long downhill in mile 4 and my pace reflects that. Otherwise I was super consistent and felt good. Zach was waiting along the boardwalk just after the mile 4 marker and got some pictures and cheered me on!

1- 8:36
2- 8:23
3- 8:25
4- 8:00

After seeing Zach along the boardwalk, we headed back past our hotel and the finish line and then out on the long out-and-back along the bay/slough/river thing. It was nice that it isn’t a true out and back – when you turn around you have just over 10 miles to go. There’s a hill right at the finish line which was not too bad going up and I knew it would be nice to finish downhill in a few hours. The other side of that hill was more gradual so it was fun to cruise down and I hoped wouldn’t be too bad on the way back (mile 25 is no time for a big hill).

The next several miles were nice. I was still right on pace and feeling good. There was quite a bit of shade along the road and the temps were decent, like mid 60’s. There was a bit of a breeze too. I was keeping pace with a few people and that was nice, they were really consistent. I had one slow mile and that surprised me, so I made an effort to pick it up and thankfully that worked. The aid stations were pretty few and far between, but well stocked and friendly. Even though I was carrying my 20 oz. water bottle in my fuel belt AND started off with a little tiny water bottle in my hand, I still took a sip of water at every aid station. I knew it was going to be very warm and I needed it. I ate a Gu every 5 miles. It was pretty easy to take the Gu because I wasn’t running super hard and there weren’t any hills (you know how sometimes they can be hard to eat while running/breathing hard?). The few times we were out in the full sun I noticed it was getting really warm and it worried me a bit. I knew the shade we had been enjoying would certainly be gone when we passed through here on the way back.

5- 8:44
6- 8:33
7- 8:21
8- 9:02
9- 8:32

I was looking forward to hitting the halfway point of the race. They didn’t actually have the half marked, but I took my split at mile 13 and was right on pace. I was already starting to get kind of tired and was surprised every time I saw that I hadn’t slowed down yet. I figured at this point that the second half of the race was going to be interesting. I was worried but tried to stay in the present, where I was actually feeling ok.

I knew Zach would be near the turnaround (about mile 15.5) or even closer so I started looking for him after about mile 14. I was looking forward to seeing him and getting a full water bottle. I was feeling good and right on pace and wanted to share that with him so he could update my friends via text. I didn’t see him, didn’t see him, and by the time I did I actually was feeling slightly less good. But I stuck with my story and told him the planned “feeling good, right on pace” message. It wasn’t very shaded anymore and was very warm. Zach told me it was about 64 but later he admitted he lied to make feel better and it was 70. I’m glad I didn’t know that. It was warming up fast too considering this was only like 9:00 am. A few people were already walking.

10- 8:36
11- 8:33
12- 8:36
13- 8:36
14- 8:40

I hit the turn around and looked for Zach again after a few minutes. By the time I saw him again I was feeling quite a bit more tired. I waved and he took a picture and I continued my run. Now I was heading back toward the finish which was nice. I lapped my watch at the mile 16 marker and was very glad to only have 10 to go. My pace had slipped in the last couple miles and I could feel myself slowing and growing tired. After mile 16 I decided I would no longer look at my mile splits. I knew it was going to get slow and I didn’t want to fight the disappointment or worry about my finish time. I accepted that I would slow down but became determined to finish no matter how long it took me.

Over the next few miles I just kept chugging along. I ate my Gu and drank my water and just kept going. I actually felt ok but was anticipating feeling awful soon… I wasted a lot of energy worrying about the future! It was hard not to think about it though because it was VERY warm and a lot of people were already walking and cramping up and stuff. Even people still on the way OUT, several miles behind me! I saw an ambulance pass by and that freaked me out a bit. I was still doing ok but I was in “no man’s land” with a long way to go and not much company besides the people I was passing and the occasional aid station. I hadn’t walked at all but grabbed a couple cups at every aid station. One in my mouth and one on my head. I also would swerve to find any shade I could. Zach passed me in the car about mile 19 or so and I smiled and gave him a wave. He kept driving next to me and I told him to go away, ha! For some reason it made it harder to have him there. I needed to concentrate, whatever that means.

As I grew more tired, I thought a lot about my Ironman and the two half-ironman races I’ve done. For some reason those experiences really came back to me and this felt really similar. I think it was because in marathons I have always been focused on my pace and my finish time, where in those triathlons I was really only thinking “just keep running.” I kept telling myself to keep moving forward and that I was doing really good. I was passing a lot of fit looking people, which I did in those triathlons too! Those two half ironmans were super hot and I reminded myself how I finished those. And I thought a lot about the Ironman, and how far that was and how good I did. It really helped to know I had accomplished those things and all those other marathons. I knew I was strong and experienced, and even though this sucked, I could do it.

15- 8:44
16- 8:51
17- 8:55
18- 8:59
19- 9:03

I had been bargaining with myself to keep running until mile 20, where it was acceptable to walk if I needed to. So many people had been walking for miles already. I knew I wasn’t going to give up yet, but I left myself the option of giving up later. I saw the 20 mile marker and kept running… I asked myself if I could keep running until mile 21. At this point I was really bargaining with myself and focusing on little chunks of time. I still didn’t know what was ahead for me but I knew it wasn’t good. I was feeling very tired and warm and I was so ready to be done. I had given up on my goal time of 3:45 and had accepted that I might even finish with a personal worst time. But I was determined to finish. I was still running and passing a lot of people, which was encouraging.

Around mile 20 my stomach cramped up really bad. I had eaten my 4th Gu around mile 19 because I was hoping to take a 5th around mile 22-23. Not sure if it was the Gu, the heat, the 20+ miles or all of the above, but my stomach was suddenly not happy. It was a weird feeling – not exactly a side stitch, not the too-full/sick feeling, not bathroom-emergency, just general clenching of the gut. It hurt really bad and I just breathed through it. I sipped some water still because I knew I had to, but my stomach was really uncomfortable. Of all the discomfort I was in, this was the big winner.

When I saw an aid station ahead I decided I would walk through it. I hoped a little walk break would help my stomach. I took a few cups of water: drink, pour on head, repeat and then I started running again as soon as I finished the last cup. My stomach did not feel any better. I continued on in the full sun, passing people, cringing in pain over my stomach, and just wanting it to be over. I determined at some point that my stomach pain was not getting any worse, and I decided that it was bearable and I would be ok. I didn’t eat any more Gu after that though.

The last few miles were really rough. I played some games with myself, anything to keep going. I counted to 100 about 15 times. That’s about all I could do. I was so tired and incredibly bored. It was so lonely and boring and hot. I walked through the last two aid stations in miles 23 and 25 as well, but otherwise kept running. I just wanted to be done as soon as possible.

I did look at my watch eventually and even though I hadn’t seen what any of my mile splits were, I looked at my total time and tried to do some math as far as finish times. I figured I could run the last x miles in x time and finish under 3:55 (my PW). I did that a couple times over the last few miles. I knew I was going to finish when I got to mile 24 or so- I figured I could even walk the last bit if I had to. I was so happy it was going to be over soon! Someone said “a mile and a half to go” and I could have kissed them. When I hit mile 25 I realized I had tons of time to beat my PW and was super happy about that. This whole time I thought I was really looking at either a very, very slow time or not even finishing, and here I was about to finish in a decent time! My stomach had finally started feeling better in the last mile too!

I got a little surge of energy and ran strong up that last hill. At the crest of the hill is the 26 mile marker and I yelled “YAY!” I continued to yell “YAY!” and pump my arms as I ran down that big hill. I even did the “make some noise” arm gesture to the large crowd at the bottom of the hill. I was SO happy. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be done with a race!! I saw Zach and waved. YAY! It’s over!!!

20- 9:04
21- 9:18 (water stop)
22- 9:17
23- 9:43 (water stop)
24- 9:20
25- 9:31 (water stop)
26- 9:23
.2- 1:36 (8:00 pace)

Official finish time: 3:51:35 (8:50 pace)

First 13 miles: 1:51:03 (8:33 pace)
Last 13.2 miles: 2:00:30 (9:08 pace)

156/673 Overall
15/55 (F30-34 AG)

As I crossed the finish line, a big friendly volunteer guy grabbed onto me and walked me through to get a medal and tear the bottom of my bib off (remember, no chip timing). He held onto me until I got a cup of water and then he asked if I was ok and let me go. I really appreciated it as I am prone to collapsing at the finish line! I wandered around in a little daze for a second and then looked around for Zach. He waved and took my picture. We talked for a minute and then I wandered over to get some oranges and watermelon. They had a water misting station set up and I sat in a metal folding chair downwind of it for a few minutes. Divine! I got my t-shirt and then went and found Zach again. We talked a bit and I told him a little about the race (all the details would come out over the next several hours of course!). He was saying that it was very, very warm and many people were commenting on it. I think it was nearly 80 degrees by the time I finished just before 11 am.

We walked back to the hotel room and I showered – surprisingly no major damage but I did have a bloody blister situation on one foot. That’s about it though. I was generally very achy and sore but no sunburn, no chafing, no pains.

We had a great rest of the day and weekend. We had lunch and beer at Rogue brewery and then had an ice cream and walked around. I slept most of the way home. By the time we got to Portland it was 90 degrees! We had a bbq at our neighbor’s house and then met Deana for drinks later. It was a great summery day for hanging out, just not the greatest day for running. I was incredibly sore that night and Sunday morning but nothing unusual. Sunday we walked to a neighborhood café for breakfast (and mimosas) and then went to our softball game where I felt good enough to play. I actually felt much better by the end of the game. We won by a lot and went out for beers after. So fun! Later we rode our bikes up to Alisa’s house for dinner where we bbq’d and sat on the porch as a thunderstorm rolled through.

It was a very fun weekend and a good race experience. It was definitely hard, much harder than I thought it would be. It wasn’t exactly “fun” but I’m glad I did it and very proud of myself. Even though it was my 3rd slowest finish time, it was a race where I showed a lot of guts and determination. I dug deep and never gave up. I paced myself and ran smart, which I owe to a lot of race experience and a lot of smart runner friends (Zach, Aron!) who gave me advice about the day.

I supposed I would recommend this race to other people, but I have no interest in doing it again. The weather is too iffy that time of year (it was not quite as hot, but still very warm last year for Zach’s run too) and the course is pretty lonely and boring. It is pretty but not in any kind of distracting way! I don’t know, I used to like that kind of thing (Avenue of the Giants was very similar, and I really enjoyed it) but it just didn’t do it for me this time.

I should add that after all of Zach’s lamenting of his injury and missing the race, he was pretty glad in the end that he didn’t run it. Ha! Someone may have been looking out for him. 

I’m looking forward to a nice break and recovery. The 50k that I’m on the waiting list for is in 14 weeks, so I’ll start training soon for that. I’m really looking forward to trail running! I’ll also be doing more cross training – cycling, climbing, yoga. And lots of fun summer stuff! Thanks so much for following along with me and reading this long report. Thanks as always for your support.


So. Many. Pictures. BUT am having trouble loading them from Live Writer. If they don’t work on this post I will make another soon. Thanks!


Amy said...

You continue amaze and impress me with your drive, determination, and all around awesomeness. I am so lucky to have such an experienced marathoning friend (not to mention that awesomeness, too!).

Great job on a hot day.

Petraruns said...

That is an incredible performance under the circumstances, you are so amazing! The heat will really sap you so you did incredibly well to last that long, especially given how your stomach was.

I hope you know that you are SO strong inside you - times are meaningless, the fact that you finished so strong is what is important. I am so proud to know yOU!

kristen said...

Awesome job! I was thinking about you Saturday. Yes, great day for bbqing and boozing. Not so great for running.

I'm proud of your determination too!

Kim said...

way to hang in there jen! you still kicked major butt and im proud of you lady! congrats!

KK said...

Well it looks like that bloody Ironman was good for something after all! I could feel your pain while reading this-I use the same strategies: counting, bargaining with myself, rationing of treats, ignoring those miles blow. But, on a very tough day you stuck it out and then had enough leftover for the important stuff (booze and BBqs). Well done!

Also, I have some friends who are road tripping right now and they were at The Rogue Brewery last night. Sounds like a fun place.

Aron said...

You ran such a great strong race Jen and I am sooo proud of you!! You held on when it got tough and didn't give in or get too frustrated. You just took what you were dealt and went with it. Congrats!!

Ewen said...

Well done Jen. That was a battle! I liked that you revved up the crowd as you were finishing. 3:51 is damn good on a warm day like that. Your slow-down wasn't too bad... (a friend just ran her first marathon with splits of 1:52 and 2:08). Hope you get into the 50k. Maybe try the LA marathon for better weather - it was cold and wet this year!

Alisa said...

You already know that I think you're awesome but this race report shows that you're an awesome, determined and happy runner---even when the conditions aren't great you stuck with it and managed some smiles. I was also very glad to hear that I'm not the only person that picks a landmark or counts while running, sometimes you just need a gimmick to get through.

I can't wait to start running with you again and watch you train for and kick butt during your ultra!

Lauren @ Sassy Molassy said...

Oh man, that sounds rough! I went to watch some friends from Eugene run it and it was SO hot. I also did a 15 mile run along the course and cheered people on. That heat was super exhausting. Props to you for finishing with a great time considering! A few of my friends either had to drop out or walk the last few miles. Who knew it would be 80 on the Oregon coast in June??