Saturday, October 15, 2011

portland marathon race recap

*Warning--this may be my longest blog post ever, but I wanted to get this down before I forgot some of it. If you've heard enough about the Portland Marathon from me, come back tomorrow.*  The race photos went up this morning, a bit ahead of schedule. But the quality is kind of horrible. However, I'm not purchasing them for the exorbitant fees they charge, even for the jpegs.  So they'll give you some brushstrokes, but probably not much else.

The race started at 7:00, so I woke up at 5, had some bread and chocolate almond butter, a cup of coffee. The forecast seemed to settle on an hour of rain/showers between 6-7, and just cloudy after that. It didn't start raining until about 8:00, and then it rained off and until about noon. So that was spot on, Weatherman! Thanks!  I opted for compression socks and a skirt, although after having seen the race photos I probably should have gone with capri tights or compression shorts. Green was a good choice for visibility, I think. I'm also glad I wore a hat because the rain/sweat dripped off it pretty continuously after about mile 8 or so.

Mr. Bump walked me to the starting line, which was about 12 blocks from our hotel, snapped a couple of photos and then wandered off to the starting line in hopes of seeing me there.  Luckily, he did.

Starting line - Mile 1 10:35.2

Mile 2 - 10:58.6/Mile 3 - 11:12:1
These first few miles start off a gradual uphill. You go through Portland's pretty Chinatown gate, down to the waterfront (where I saw Mr. Bump again, but I was so far ahead of where he thought I'd be that he didn't have a chance to get a picture of me). Then the course climbs through about Mile 3. I managed to spot my cousin and her family at around Mile 3, just outside their hotel.  Though I was heading uphill, and you can see it in my mile 3 split, I was just cruising. Mile 1 seemed a bit fast, but I was on target for 2-3, feeling good.  At this point in the race you have so far to go, it's best to just soak up what's going on around you ignore the fact that you're running. There will be time enough for that later.

Mile 4 - 10:22:0/Mile 5 - 10:38:1/Mile 6 - 10:34:5

At mile 4.5 you turn around and head back toward downtown. This was where it started to spit, then rain for the first time. We saw a couple of bands along here (there were supposedly something like 84 bands on the course), including a marimba group playing above us on a pedestrian walkway. Lots of people in the neighborhood were out with their coffee cheering us on and watching the, as we saw on several signs, such as: "Most Boring Parade Ever."  This part is back along the waterfront and heading toward the industrial area. I picked up some speed on the downhills but it didn't feel like I was pushing too hard. In retrospect, I was.  I never should have had a 10:22 split.  In this section we passed by a homeless tent camp under a bridge and the smell was horrible.

Mile 7 - 10:38.6/Mile 8 - 10:39.4
I was around the 4:45 pace group at this point, so I thought I'd just hang with them, which I managed more or less until mile 15.  I was pushing pretty hard in the first half, and I could feel it in my legs. But I reasoned that I was supposed to be pushing the pace, this was the race, after all. But I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain it. That should have been my clue to pull back.  I saw a couple in camp chairs who had laid a raincoat down on the ground for their pit bull to curl up on, then draped it over his back to keep him warm. 

Mile 9 - 10:55.4/Mile 10 - 10:46.2
The first (second?) turnaround. It was at this point that I could finally see if anyone was still behind me. The next two miles allowed me to feel a little better about my pace, given the amount of runners, and eventually walkers, still coming toward us.  It rained all along here, but thankfully we didn't get stopped for any trains. We cross probably 10 sets of tracks along here, and it happens frequently that runners get stopped, but we didn't. Someone I saw at breakfast the next morning said they got stopped for 15 minutes, but they were run/walking and didn't particularly care about their time. I think they said they clocked in around 6:30.  I remember actual cheerleaders along this point. Tiny little middle school cheerleaders.

Mile 11 - 10:47:2/Mile 12 - 11:01.9/Mile 13 (halfway!) - 10:40.8
My memory of these miles was that there were lots of spectators, but knowing probably none of them would be for me. I always hold out a little hope that I'll be surprised, but no dice. Lots of great signs along this section. "I'm proud of you, complete stranger!" and "Your feet hurt because you're kicking so much asphalt/butt/etc."  My feet weren't hurting yet but I was feeling it in my calf muscles and my quads.  You run through some neighborhoods in mile 10-12, there were a few bands along the course, aid stations, all a rainy smeary blur. I realized it was probably going to be just this wet the rest of the way (which was almost true).  My spectators never got rained on, but then they were parked at Sugar Mama's inhaling a crazy-good breakfast. The didn't believe me when I said it rained almost the whole time when I saw them at the finish line.

Mile 14 - 11:01:1/Mile 15 - 11:02.8/Mile 16 - Checkpoint Charlie/The Hill - 11:37.5
Even though you realize at this point you're halfway, what you're feeling physically is that you can't possibly do this many miles all over again. For me I knew the hardest part of the course was coming up, that crazy steep hill you have to run up before going across St. John's bridge. I spent these miles trying to run under the cover of the trees to get out of the rain, and eyeing the bridge when I could see it in the distance, thinking how impossibly far away it seemed, and knowing I still had 9 miles yet to run after I got there.

For whatever reason, there are no race photos between the starting line and mile 17. Which I find just bizarre. Also my family was still leisurely consuming their from all accounts very delicious breakfast, with pancakes and homemade sausages. It was all very cruel now that I think about it.  I was trying to keep my body temperature up and eating Gus every 4-5 miles. What is wrong with me? I kept thinking.

There was also a guy dressed in drag like a 20s flapper girl along here. He/she must have been racing, however, because this was just after what they call "Checkpoint Charlie" where they make sure you have a timing chip and race bib on or you can't continue on the course.

Mile 17 - The Bridge - 12:59.4

This was a really tough mile, one of the slowest, too. It was rainy, there was a wet breeze coming off the river as we went over it, and I was out of Gatorade. You can actually see me trying to locate Mr. Bump and my folks as I came off the bridge in that second picture. But they, much like a water/aid station, were not to be found until mile 19. When you get up that hill and onto the bridge, you think that it's going to be downhill soon, but that damned bridge is very long and half of it is still climbing.  The weatherman was burned in effigy by us 5 hour marathoners on the bridge.

Mile 18 - 11:46.5  Frantically searching for something to drink, or someone I knew on this section. There were neither. The course profile appears to be all downhill from the end of the bridge to the very last half mile, but there was an uncharted hill after the initial downhill from the bridge. There was cursing involved. Also some walking. All I wanted was something to drink and to see my spectators in their Team Bump shirts. (Oh yes, I had shirts made. They are fabulous. I will share photos later.)

It was around here I also saw the best spectator sign EVER, held by a little blond boy of about 3. It said "My head was in the 99th percentile. You got this, Mom!" I laughed out loud.

Mile 19 - First Parental Sighting - 12:24.5

I finally saw Mr. Bump and my parents, and managed to swap out my empty bottle for a full one. I also took the opportunity to chuck the iFitness belt that I bought at the expo to carry my cell phone, because I just couldn't seem to get it to stay put, probably because I was sopping wet. I'll try it again but it chafed me somewhat, mostly because I couldn't get it to stay on my hips. Seeing my family and offloading some gear a boost I needed, but it didn't last for long.

Mentally I had this notion that once I got over the hill and the bridge, it would be all downhill and easier and I wouldn't hit the wall and that rainbows and unicorns would come shooting out of my ass running shoes. I wasn't prepared for how very long the last 6 miles were going to be. And I suffered for it.

Mile 20 - 12:45.2

Somewhere around here I began to feel my body and my mind separate from each other. I felt like they sort of uncoupled like two train cars, and while they were both traveling the same direction, they weren't really paying much attention to each other. I had fantasy conversations with other runners. I got fixated on a guy who's shirt said "I Am Sofa King..." and then had a list of sentence ends like "sweaty" and "awesome" and "my wife after this." I spent a good 3/4 of a mile trying to think up other ways to end that sentence.  I spent a lot of time scrutinizing the runners around me, what they were wearing, their gaits and socks and oh, just about anything. I felt like I was at a distance from all the spectators, all the other runners, myself. Also like I was sort of in slow-motion.  Probably I was somewhat energy depleted and my brain was just working triage on the body and didn't have time to entertain me.  It was weird, that's for sure.

I never had any problems with my GI on this race, and I never needed a pottie break either, which is normal for me. I did have a tough time opening up my gus and I don't think I kept up adequately with the fuel. I was trying to plan them for water stations, but I'd forget until I was out of water. I also kept meaning to wipe my face off to clear the salt off it at each water stop, but I kept forgetting that too.  My brain gets very forgetful when I'm racing. It doesn't have much short-term memory.

Mile 21 - 13:15.6/Mile 22 - 12:04.2/Mile 23 - 11:57.0/Mile 24 - 13.09.8
This is where the wheels came off the bus and I felt like I let everyone down. Remember how I said I was going to dedicate these miles to thinking about people in my life that I found inspiring and/or supportive?  I apparently am really bad at math because I didn't list anyone for mile 22-23. I therefore spent miles 20-23 trying to figure out who the hell I was supposed to be thinking of. But I also spent a lot of these miles alternating between running and hurting and thinking about walking, and then walking and hurting in different places and trying to gear back up to running again.  I felt bad for the people I was supposed to be using as "inspiration" because these splits were anything but inspiring. 

Still, I kept moving, even though I kept forgetting that I was on mile 22 instead of 23 (so disappointing). These are the "never again" miles, when you're sure that you will never run another marathon. They're also the miles where the 5:00 hour pace group caught up to me, then passed me at a water station. They were in my line of sight until about 24, when you cross back over the river. That was the point at which my goals began to shift back to "finish and not die." I was trying to do math at this point to figure out exactly how much further I had to go and if I really was going to miss a sub 5:00 marathon. I'm useless at math on the best of days, so I had no idea.

I did think, more than once, as a way to get myself back running, that this was the walk break I was going to regret later. That got me going again every time.

Mile 25 - 11:19.8 (negative split!) Around this time I realized if I didn't have too much further to go, and if I picked up the pace, I might actually finish sub 5 hours. Hence the negative split. Actually, this is the pace I should have run every mile. But it felt like a hurry after the last five slow run/walk miles. There is some good downhill on this part too, so I opened it up as best I could. The fact that I was able to run this mile faster lets me know that I could have run some of the previous 5 faster, if I had mentally been around.

Mile 26 - 12:00.3

Misery is the best way to describe this face. Until you round this corner, you really have no idea how much further you have to go. People keep screaming at you that "you're almost there!" which is the most useless piece of shit encouragement.  I think this was 25.9 or so, so really only .3 miles left to go. But until you can see the finish line, it's really hard to know you're close, but you can't see quite how close you are to finishing. I also knew my watch was off the official course markers, so even though I could tell how far I'd come, I couldn't do the math on how much further I had to go. If there was a final 800 meters sign, I never saw it.  I also didn't see my father waving his baseball cap at me over the barricades. I was just focused on holding on to it. I so badly wanted to stop and walk, but there was some serious shame in that so I kept running.

26.0-26.4 (my Garmin's official distance) - 5:37.8 (but I forgot to stop my watch right away, so a bit off)
Net time: 5:02:43 (official)
Average pace: 11:26/mile

I only vaguely remember putting my hands up here, but it makes for a nice picture so I'm glad I did.

After finishing I was really impatient to get my medal and space blanket and get moving again. After being in motion for that long it's really hard to just stop and wait in a line (no matter how short) to get your medal. Also, apparently my blood sugar was nonexistant because I was ready to shove some other poor finisher out of the way to get my medal.  I was completely soaked to the skin by the time I finished, so that space blanket was great. Although it was sort of sweat under it, freeze out of it. I've seen in other races that they tape them on like a cape, which would have been helpful because of all the other stuff I was going to need my hands for. Upon reflection, perhaps there were some bags somewhere, but they weren't in my line of sight.

The finisher's chute for this race was an effort to load you down with a bunch of stuff when you can barely grip anything at this point. Medal, space blanket, rose, comemerative coin, pendant, long sleeve t-shirt, and tree seedling.  For some reason I insisted on a hot pink (not pale pink) rose from the poor girls gripping thorny roses. Why I cared, I have no idea. But I distinctly remember thinking that I'd just finished an f*cking marathon and I deserved the color of rose I wanted. 

Not to mention the fact that there is tons of food. And you really would like to eat (or at least grab some of it), but your hands are full of things you can't eat.  As I was heading from the roses to the food, the road seemed to slant one direction and a race volunteer angel descended from a cloud in front of me, asking me if I was all right. I assured her I was fine, it was the street that seemed to be slanted to the left. She nodded, gripped me around the shoulders and said "Let's get you some juice."  Once I had a little cup of juice, and she was assured that I wasn't going to fall over, she waved vaguely in the direct of the medical tent in case I needed it and used her angel wings to flutter over to the next delirious finisher.

I got orange and grape juice, a string cheese (I heard some older gentleman saying "how do you get this thing open?") a half a banana, a frozen fruit bar, and a fistful of redvines, pretty much at random. Although I really wanted that fruit bar. They also had mini candy bars, bags of chips, quarters of bagels, oranges, grapes, gingersnaps (should have got some of those), other cookies. A ton of food. I ran out of room to put stuff so I just gave up. And then they handed me the pendant and the coin in little velvet pouches. Then I really was out of room. At that point the street was sort of tipping again, and I just wanted to find my family. The reunion area was really really far away, probably  3/4 of a block from where you exit the finisher's chute. Yes, I had just run 26.2 miles so an extra 2-3 blocks of finisher's chute to reunion area was really too long. 

Thankfully my last name starts with A, so my little band of merry spectators was waiting at the head of the reunion area. And let me tell you, it was the best part of the whole day to see them and the smiles on their faces. I wish I had been lucid enough to get photos of that. It was wonderful. So much better than any of my armloads full of race schwag. Mr. Bump became my official holder-upper, and while I now regret that he to NO photos of me after the race, it sure felt good to have someone's arm around my shoulder at the time.

We walked to the car, said goodbye to my family who came down from Washington, and made it back to the hotel and into a very long, very hot shower.  Later we went to lunch at Burgerville and then over to Powell's Bookstore (somewhere along the course I promised myself that as a reward for finishing) but I couldn't even think about what I wanted to look at or buy and my feet were throbbing so I cut the visit short.  I rested in the late afternoon but didn't nap, and we went to bed early. That was pretty much it. 

I finished. I didn't get sick, didn't have any blisters, although I got a wicked chafe from my heart rate monitor because of how wet I was. I didn't hit all my goals but I did hit some. I'm calling it a win.  I'll save my thoughts and future goals for another post. Sorry this is so long. If you got all the way to the end of it, then I owe you a medal. Leave me your address in the comments section.


Miss Kim said...

You are magnificent! Wow. Thanks for the blow-by-blow. Of course you deserve hot pink roses, even if they had to paint one for you.

Chris said...

Of COURSE I read all the way through. You absolutely ROCK. (and no, I don't need a medal)