Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Portland Marathon Race Report

Yesterday I ran my 10th marathon here in Portland. It was my first time running the Portland Marathon and it was a race I will definitely be running again. I feel so lucky to have such an amazing event right here at my doorstep! I would recommend this race to anyone- the course was fast but interesting, the crowd support was phenomenal, and the weather was perfect. I got to enjoy all this, plus the benefit of having dinner at home and a full night's sleep in my own bed. PLUS I knew a bunch of people that were also running the race and a ton of friends were out cheering at multiple places on the course! It was a perfect setup for a great race.


I signed up for this race in a frenzy of peer pressure a few months ago. It was definitely a gamble. My focus all summer was trail running, specifically training for a 50k run on my birthday. Zach and I did almost all our runs on the trails and I built up spectacular endurance. I ended up running a solo 31 miler on my birthday in 6 hours and 19 minutes, and finished with a huge smile on my face and felt great. My pace was just over 12:00 which was my goal and the pace at which I did most of those long, hilly, beautiful trail runs. From time to time I ran with Zach and would run a 9:00-10:00 pace, but that was about as speedy as it got on the trails. I kept my overall mileage pretty low and focused on those epic long runs. I didn't even have a Garmin for the summer and was feeling very free and relaxed. I really found a love of trail running this summer.

The Portland Marathon fell one month exactly after that 50k run. Thankfully I recovered quickly and only took a couple days off, and was able to squeeze in some "marathon training" in the following 4 weeks. I made a point to stay OFF the trails and get my legs used to pounding the pavement again. I also tried my darndest to whip some speed into my legs. So long free-running forest girl, hello intervals and pace analysis. I got a new Garmin (I'd lost my old one at the Cascade Lakes Relay), busted out my road running shoes, put on my game face, and crammed for this race.

It was interesting. Obviously 4 weeks isn't sufficient to "train" for a marathon, but coming off that big base of endurance I figured it was enough time to fine-tune a bit. I still only ran about 35 miles per week but plugged in some speedwork and marathon-pace stuff. It was definitely a wake up call. Once I did some 800's and could barely hold a 7:30 pace where I used to run closer to 6:30 pace for those. Ouch. On GA or Long runs, I struggled to get my pace under 9:00. I was feeling good, just didn't have the speed (You'll hear this sentence again later). The road did take a bit of a toll on my legs- I noticed shin splints and other soreness that I hadn't dealt with all summer. I was reminded why I had backed off from road running/racing. But, I was signed up for this thing, and with no valid excuse not to, I was going to run it.


As I mentioned in my previous post, I had no idea. I was hoping for under 3:55 (my slowest time) or at least a sub-4. But I didn't know- maybe some speed would appear and I would have a great day, or maybe I would fall apart and crawl in. I had been dealing with a pain in my right foot all week and had only run twice all week in hopes of it feeling better, so that was a factor for me too. My main goal was to finish my 10th marathon and have fun.


I went to the race expo Friday after work. It was just a few blocks from my office - so nice! There weren't many people there so I really got to enjoy it. It was a great expo- one of the best I've been to! They had a huge merchandise section with really nice stuff and not overpriced. I got a pint glass and a t-shirt with the marathon logo. I got some samples and visited with a few vendors.

At one table I noticed the sign said "Legends of running" and who do I see standing there but my old friend, Bill Rodgers!! I'd met him at the 2007 Boston Marathon, so we go way back. There were just a couple people at the table so I wandered over and just listened in on his conversation. He was talking about one of his legendary classic races with another older runner- it was great. I started chatting with a gal standing there and found out it was Bill's girlfriend! She was so nice. She told me about her family there and we talked about running. She was asking about places to run besides the waterfront so I mentioned Forest Park. She said, "Oh you should tell Bill about that..." so as soon as he was done talking with the other guy, I shook his hand and filled him in on Forest Park. He hasn't spent much time in Portland at all and hadn't heard of Forest Park. I gave him directions and told him about the Leif Erickson trail. I could have died!! Telling one of the best marathoners in American history about one of the best running routes in the Northwest! It was seriously a moment I will never forget. So cool!! He signed my bib and wished me luck. I finally picked up my goodie bag- which included a nice technical t-shirt. Which is in addition to the finisher's shirt you get after the race! Two shirts! I shoved everything into my reusable goodie bag and practically skipped to the bus stop.

Since I hit up the expo on Friday, I had all day Saturday to chill out at home. It was a gorgeous day with lots of sun. I got my race stuff ready first, and then I walked up to the bagel shop, met up with Alisa and walked with her and her puppy for a bit, then went and got a pedicure. I ate lunch in my garden and read for a couple of hours. Finally I did some chores, Zach made a delicious pasta dinner and I took a bath. Perfect! I have only ever slept in my own bed ONE time before a marathon and that was my first one in San Francisco. It was great. I slept like a baby and woke up a little before the alarm at 4:00 am.

Race Day

I ate oatmeal and a half a piece of toast and checked the weather. It had rained overnight but had stopped, and the temperature was in the upper 50's. It looked like it might drizzle a bit but no heavy rain, and no chance of the sun coming out. Good! Zach had his support-crew bag loaded up and put his bike on the car- he would be riding all over the course getting pics, cheering me and our friends on, and passing off water bottles to me. We left the house about 5:40. We drove to our friend's apartment downtown, where we used to live (that's how we met them). I used their bathroom and we all walked to the start together at about 6:15. It was our good friends Brant and Emily, and their friends from out of town, Laura and Colin. All of us were running the marathon, and besides Emily, it was everyone's first. So exciting!! I felt like such a veteran and really enjoyed sharing their pre-race moments. So cute.

It was really crowded as we got toward the start - so many runners! I think 15,000 total (the half had a couple thousand). They had a pretty good corral system going so we all split off and hugged and said good luck. Laura and I were in the same corral "B." We found the porto-potty line in our area and chatted while we waited. We made it with just a couple minutes to spare. (after letting a Wave "A" guy go ahead of us, he was cutting it super close and needed to warmup because his goal was 2:40! Go him!) She revealed her super-secret goal to me- to run a 3:30! WOW! I had put 3:40 on my entry form (hey, this was months ago and I was playing the odds) so I was in her wave. I ended up kind of regretting this decision because I was passed by a LOT of people. Which is never fun. Laura went with the 3:30 pace group and I wished her luck and moved back.

Finally, our wave was off. There were tons of people around me, the downtown lights were twinkling, I could already hear the first band ahead, and the energy was amazing. I was totally in the moment and feeling so blessed. I didn't know what to expect for a finish time, but I knew it was going to be a fun day.

The Race

( Click here for link to Course Map and Profile)

Miles 1-5 

It was crowded, and for the first few hundred yards, I was mainly focusing on not tripping on someone's feet. There were puddles, manhole covers, and train tracks to dodge as well. The first mile was downhill-y and flew by. We made a couple of turns through downtown and it all felt very urban and exciting. This was the first time I've ever run a race where I was super familiar with the area- it was weird! There were several cool bands and dj's all along the course and in the first few miles it seemed they were non-stop. As soon as one fell out earshot a new musician could be heard.

I had lined up around the 3:40 pace group (because I was too lazy to work my way farther back in the corral) and generally felt like everyone was moving a little faster than me. I let that happen. I was so caught up in the moment and not too focused on my pace. I was hoping for 8:30's-8:40's, at least in the early miles, but I knew a crowded start and a couple hills could slow me at times.

We made our way down to Naito Parkway- the wide road along the Willamette River. I saw Alisa and Lisa right around  mile 3. The first of many, many friends I would see along the course. I was in with the 3:40 people at that moment and I hoped they didn't think that meant anything about my pace. The 3:40 group pulled away quickly. We made our way up a gradual hill which I was very familiar with, but the turn to head down hill came quicker than I thought. A nice surprise! The downhill was long and I opened up a bit, loving the speed. It was the fastest I'd run all day. There was a neat band on a pedestrian overpass and we all waved up at them.

I was carrying a regular plastic water bottle that Zach had outfitted with a duct tape handle- we've done this a few times and it's the awesomest. I reminded myself to drink a bit at each mile and was glad to avoid the aid stations which were crowded. I ate a Gu at mile 5.

Oh, and just past the 5 mile marker, I almost got stopped by a train! Ha! It was pretty awesome. I'm sure if I was fast or more invested in this race I would have been bothered by it, but I thought it was cool. I am stopped by trains at that spot all the time and I knew it was a possibility today too. It's all part of the fun. I didn't actually have to stop though- people just ahead of me did, but by the time I reached the gates they were going up and people we moving though again. It was only about a minute or so (it was an Amtrak) so I don't think I would have cared. I've been stopped by freight trains for 20 minutes at that spot before!

Mile 1: 8:48
Mile 2: 9:09 - slight hill
Mile 3: 9:05 - slight hill
Mile 4: 8:34 (average) - up then down
Mile 5: 8:34 (average) – down

Miles 6-10

After the initial excitement faded away and I was less distracted, I noticed something Not Good. My right foot was hurting. This was the pain that had bothered me some for the last week or so, but I really didn't expect it to crop up this early in the race. It was quite sore... like a 4 on a scale of 1-10. This worried me. I couldn't imagine that it was going to get better, and was scared to think how it was going to feel in an hour, two hours... I realized that this might end entirely differently than I'd ever imagined- I might have to drop out. This was the LOW point for sure. I knew I was ok at the moment and told myself just to take it mile by mile. Don't make any decisions now.

Besides my foot, I was feeling kind of meh in this stretch anyway. I wasn't running fast and knew I wouldn't be speeding up. The crowd of runners was also still moving past me which was discouraging. I should have started further back. I was doing a really even pace but it was slower than the paces around me. I was generally just really aware of how far I had to run still and was not into it.

I did get to see lots of friends- I saw Zach right after mile 5, then I saw Tommy and Madeline, and then I saw Anne right after that. This stretch was flat, flat, flat and along the boring industrial section. It was an out-and-back which was cool because we got to see the race leaders. I was calling out people's names and the woman next to me complimented my eyesight. I yelled "Go Katherine" and then immediately realized that is Aron's friend Katie! She ended up finishing in just over 3 hours- amazing. I got to see Brant, Emily, and Laura too (she was still with the 3:30 pace group). There was a great DJ along this stretch with a crazy guy dancing on the top of this painted bus. Yay Portland. As we finished the out-and-back and made our turn into Northwest I saw Anne, Zach, Tommy, and Madeline again and gave them high-fives. 

Mile 6: 8:33 (rest of downhill, then flat)
Mile 7: 9:01
Mile 8: 8:56
Mile 9: 8:52
Mile 10: 8:57

Miles 11-15 

My foot wasn't getting any worse really and I tried to put it out of my mind. I decided that I had to shake off the bad attitude and set about enjoying this race. I figured it wasn't going to be a fast one, but I could at least have a good time. I let go of any real pace goals and just kept moving forward. We wound through the Northwest neighborhood and there were a lot of people. People were calling my name out all day - either the "Jennifer" on my bib or the "Jen" on my shirt. That was fun! I saw Sarah and Michael and ran over to high-five them.

It was kind of hilly through here but it went by quickly. After a couple of miles of that neighborhood, the route spit us out on Highway 30 where we would stay for several miles to the bridge. This stretch was pretty boring but not bad- Forest Park is on the left and far ahead in the mist you could see the St. John's Bridge. It's definitely got that highway-feel though. I saw Zach again and told him my foot hurt, which somehow helped. Just to get it out there.

I was surprised to see my friend Emily come running by me! I stayed with her for a mile or so and we chatted a bit. She had started out really fast (like just over 8:00 pace) and was slowing down. She was still faster than me though, and I let her (ha, "let her?") go ahead. I guess she stopped for the bathroom a little while after that and I ran past, and she never caught up again. So I guess she really did slow down (still beat me by several minutes chip-time though!). Zach was riding along the road and got tons of pictures and gave me a new water bottle. I had taken a Gu at 10 and another at 15, and was tossing the water bottles after I finished the Gu- I just didn't feel like carrying it more than I had to. I ran through the aid stations to supplement and got water there.

Mile 11: 8:54
Mile 12: 9:28 (northwest hilly-ish)
Mile 13: 8:50 (with Emily)
Mile 14: 9:06 (average)
Mile 15: 9:06 (average)

Miles 16-20 

Sometime after the 15 mile mark, still cruising along Highway 30, Brant caught up to me! That was a really nice surprise. He had also started off really fast and was now running around 9:00 miles. I was hovering in that range too so we stuck together for a while. He slowed down a bit actually, which I really appreciated. It was nice having some company. We compared aches and pains and I realized my foot wasn't bothering me that bad anymore. The bottoms of my feet were really hurting- not used to so much pavement I guess- and that kind of masked the foot pain. I'll take it!

We hit the 16 mile mark and began the climb up the St. John's Bridge. It wasn't that bad really, but definitely slowed us down. Brant stuck with me and we encouraged each other. At the top we got a nice view of the rainy river and foggy downtown. A couple (yes, runners) was making out at the top of the bridge and we all yelled and teased them. Up ahead we saw Zach with his camera and we hammed it up! We were having fun. We hit the 17 mile mark at the top, and it was a great relief to know that the course was almost all flat to downhill for the last 9 miles. Brant said goodbye and took off a little ahead, but I kept him in view for a couple miles before losing sight of him.

The next part was through a cute neighborhood, right over by Amy's house. There were a few blocks of uphill which was a bummer, but the street was lined with people. A lot of people were shouting my name and cheering us all on! I was waving back and having fun. I saw Zach again, and right after that saw a big group of friends- Alisa, Justin, Amy, Brad, and Lisa. Yay! Alisa had a water bottle for me but I didn't need it. I still had the last one from Zach and was planning on using the water stops for the rest of the race. I high fived them and waved! Right after that, I saw Emily and Anne again! Emily jumped in and ran with me for a block or two, it was so fun. Zach took a couple pictures of us and then I was on my own again.

This whole stretch after the 18 mile mark was super flat and continued through the neighborhood. You could see the river and the city down the bluff to the right also. I was really having fun at this point- I was still running (no walk breaks), my foot felt better, and I was really enjoying the crowd support. I had slowed down though, and it seemed like my goals were passing me by. But I was ok with that. I wasn't even really hurting at all, or all that tired. I just didn't have the speed. The runners around me were starting to fade- I started to see lots of people walking or stretching out cramped muscles. I felt strong and was really proud of myself for that!

Mile 16: 9:19
Mile 17: 9:57 (Bridge!)
Mile 18: 9:17 (average)
Mile 19: 9:17 (average)
Mile 20: 9:48

Miles 21-26.2

The last stretch I was on my own. All my spectating friends had headed to the finish to post up and watch everyone come through. I definitely missed them but I knew I was almost done. I was still feeling very good and continued to run strong as others around me were fading. My pace had slowed after the bridge but it plateaued- I wasn't really slowing down any more. I tried picking up the pace, but after a while I would look down and my pace was barely lower, so it didn't seem worth it. I hadn't walked at all yet and with a few miles to go I made it my goal to run every step of the entire marathon. I think I've only ever done that 3 times before.

Around mile 23 or so I think, there was a table that said "Beer Stop!" and had an aid station set up with little cups of beer. I hesitated and then thought, "Why not??" I've always wanted to do that, it seems so crazy. So I ran up and said "Don't mind if I do!" and downed the beer in two swallows as I kept running. Hehe! Thankfully it didn't bother my stomach at all.

We enjoyed (?) a long downhill in the final miles but I could see it wasn't agreeing with everyone. Several people were pulled off to the side. Finally we hit the bottom of the hill and had a little incline up and over the Broadway Bridge. I still felt good, but again any effort to speed up was a total bust. As we came off the bridge we were right in my old neighborhood- in fact, this was my old daily running route! It was so neat to truly be on home turf. There were pretty good crowds as we neared the finish and I was waving and smiling and just loving it. I've never really been in that position- usually I'm gutting out those last few miles to hit a PR or a certain time. I have always really left it all out on the course. Somehow that just wasn't really the case this time. I couldn't bring myself to run faster, but I had quite a bit of energy for smiling and waving. I was really working the crowd too- I yelled "Make some noise!" and did the classic "make some noise" arm movement. I was running the show.

Right off the waterfront onto Salmon, and the crowds were thick. I saw Alisa and everyone else and they all yelled and cheered! A final left turn and sprint to the finish!

Mile 21: 9:47 (average)
Mile 22: 9:47 (average)
Mile 23: 9:57
Mile 24: 9:44
Mile 25: 9:55
Mile 26: 9:34
Last 0.2: 2:00 (8:40 pace)

Official Finish Time: 4:02:27 (9:15 pace)

First Half: 1:56:50 (8:55 pace)
Second Half: 2:05:37 (9:35 pace)

Post Race

I got my medal and a space blanket and caught my breath. I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion and needed a moment... so I walked over to the side, wrapped my blanket over my face and cried. I didn't want anyone to think I was hurt or anything so I pulled it together and headed back into the crowd. I quickly ran into Brant, who had finished right ahead of me, and Emily who was right behind us. Hugs and congratulations all around. They did so great. We all made our way through the long finishers area, getting water, juice, fruit, candy, a popsicle! We got a rose, a douglas fir seedling, commemorative coins, and finisher's shirts. They really should have given us a bag for all this stuff! We tried to stick together, but decided just to meet at the place we'd discussed that morning. I got there first and there was Deana and Emily, and Zach! Laura and Colin were there already too- She finished in 3:35:16- an incredible time for a first marathon!! But missed BQ by a few seconds. She'll obviously get it next time. Colin ran 3:41. So amazing! Brant and Emily came over and we got a few pics and talked about the race. He finished in 3:54 and she ran 3:57. We were getting cold and still had to walk over a mile back to the apartment, so we began our slow, hobbling journey.

We all went out to Deschutes for beer and food and then took a soak in the hot tub (boy I miss that hot tub). It was fun to sit around talking about it and just marinate in the day. Zach and I hurried back to the house and got ready for softball. Yep, softball! I felt fine- better than I had for many of the games this year (after the relay, after my 31 miler, etc) and was looking forward to seeing everyone. We went out for dinner and drinks after and just had a blast. We got home and I was in bed by 8:30.


I missed my goals, all of them. I set a new PW and for the first time, finished in over 4 hours. I knew there was a chance that this would happen and I was really worried how I would feel. But you know what, I actually AM ok with it! I think honestly this went just about as well as it could have. After a summer of endurance-focused trail running and only a few weeks of road training, I think I pulled out a pretty good time. Looking at my final pace of 9:15, I am pretty amazed.

This really was one of the most fun marathons I've done. I am glad that I made the decision to MAKE that happen. I could have focused on the race, and maybe I could have pushed a little harder, but for what? What's the difference between a 3:58 or a 4:01 or a 4:02. That's ridiculous. I'm proud of my time and how I did. It was neat being able to cruise along feeling great 4 hours into the run. My endurance training really paid off.

To be honest, I wasn't thrilled to be the slowest person in our group. But I was proud of everyone. And really, part of what takes the "sting" out of a PW and a 4:xx finish is knowing that this is my 10th marathon, and that I've run a bunch of fast marathons in the past. Most people know that, and I'm not afraid to tell those that don't. My PR is 3:36. I've run Boston twice. I've done an Ironman. I'm awesome. It's going to take more than a 4:02 marathon to deflate my ego.

Oh, an update on my foot. Well, it didn't bother me for the rest of the race, or even that afternoon. I was fine and actually forgot about it at softball. But once I went to bed the soreness set in. When I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night it hurt BAD. I couldn't really put any weight on it. By morning it wasn't as bad but still super sore. I was really worried and made a pact with myself to take a nice long break from running to let it heal. Over the last two days it is much better, thankfully! I don't think there is anything seriously wrong, but I know I can't run anytime soon. Honestly though, it was worth it.

What's next? Well, even before my foot injury came up, I was planning on taking some time off running after this marathon. I trained straight through this whole year- Peterson Ridge Rumble 20 miler in April, Newport Marathon in June, Cascade Lakes Relay in August, 50k run in September, and then this! Whew. I need a break. I miss yoga! I miss climbing. I really had a great year but I'm looking forward to stepping back and going back to a more balanced routine.

Thanks so much to my super amazing friends for coming out to cheer me on. It meant so much to me. Also thank you all for reading, and for all your cheers and support! I was hoping a few of you were tracking me online. I know the tracking had a blip at one point, the 21.8 mile split was way off I think. Go figure! As far as I can tell that was the only problem on their end, it was a spectacular event. You should all run it next year! :)


Emily, Laura, Colin, Brant, and me, pre-race:

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These were all over downtown:


Mile 5.5 

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High-fiving Tommy and Madeleine around  mile 11:


Running with Emily along Hwy 30 around mile 13:


Running with Emily toward the St. John’s Bridge:


Cruising along the highway:

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  Socked-in view from the bridge:


Brant and I on the bridge at mile 17:

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Zoomed in- look how fun we are!

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Heading down the bridge toward the east side neighborhoods:

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Feeling strong a couple miles later (18.5 ish):

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My crew! Brad, Justin, Lisa, Alisa, and Amy. Love them!!


Blurry pic of Emily running with me around mile 20:


Emily and Anne:


Heading toward the finish- all smiles!!


Super strong!

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More crew around the finish line- Michael, Sarah, and T.C.:


Lisa, Sarah, and T.C.:


Deana and Emily waiting for me at the meeting place:


Colin and Laura- first time marathon finishers!! Congrats!!


There I am! Holding all my stuff from the finish area:

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Me and Embo:


The crew, After!


The crew at the brewery:


Gorgeous Medal:


And since we somehow didn’t get any pics of me and Zach together, here is one from the archives. Thanks baby!! I love you!!!



Alisa said...

While I've never run a "fast" marathon, I do know that sometimes having fun and running slow(er) is way more fun than gunning down a PR.

Way to finish with a smile. I personally loved seeing you pump up the crowd at the end.


Amanda@runninghood said...

Well, I have to say, you've made me kind of want to run the Portland marathon. I keep saying how I have no desire to run it but you make it sound awesome! So glad you were able to have fun with it and be proud of your time even though it was a PW like you say. Awesome that you had your friends with you too! Way to go on the beer! ha! I think I might be sick with this. :) Great to read this.

Amy said...

dammit! Still jealous! :) You did great - it was so awesome to see you out there having such a good time. You are my own personal inspiration.

Nice job - and I hope the foot is feeling better by now.

Emily said...

It was way too early for Zach to be snapping pictures. Further proof that no one cares much about your finish time, they're too busy being self-centered! Just kidding, I do care and think you rocked it.

And what's more important than your finish time is that you're a good person, a great friend and an inspiration to us all!

Carolina John said...

The Portland Marathon is def on my bucket list of marathons that I want to run. I'm really glad you had fun and didn't get hurt!

Ewen said...

Glad you enjoyed it and didn't stress about times. You did well anyway and your foot survived! Great image of you stirring up the crowd. Can see you coming back for this one some day and having a crack at your PB.

Anonymous said...

Great race report. I felt like I was right there with you. You have such a great outlook on this. Isn't it great to check your ego at the door and actually do stuff like chug a beer at a water stop and pump up the crowd! I love that. And anytime you get to share a running route with a running legend is NEVER a PW!

Great job girl!

Anonymous said...

oh ps. - your foot. it sounds like PF. Don't mess around with that. That stupid injry can take FOREVER to go away. Try not to walk around barefoot. Even in your house. Be super concious of your footwear choices. I hope it heals up quickly for you.

Susan - Nurse on the Run said...

Congrats on the marathon! Even if it was your slowest (which isn't even THAT slow), each marathon has a different goal and sometimes it's fun just to soak it in and enjoy it.

My brother is moving to Portland next year, I might have to put this one on my list!

Audrey said...

First time commenter - hi! Great race report. I also ran Portland this year - definitely didn't do as well as I hoped either, but it was a fantastic event and I'd definitely love a do-over. P.S. LOVE that you had the mile 23 beer. I remember seeing those guys and was just so confused. Good luck in your upcoming races!

KK said...

Well that was one great race report! I loved the transformation you went through emotionally and mentally regarding your goals and the day. At first it's depressing when you realize you aren't going to hit your goals, but then once you make that mental switch, the feeling is very liberating. I am so glad you were able to enjoy the rest of the race and keep your spirits high. And I love that you drank a beer in the last 10k! Congrats!

Also, I've always wanted to run this marathon-but are you kidding me that they let a frickin train pass through in the middle of the course???!!! That is so bush league. What if you were trying to BQ? Not okay, Portland. But, I'm still considering it. :)