Where do I begin? I am so overwhelmed!
There’s a whole story about how I came to be registered for the Portland Marathon in the first place, but that’s not relevant to this post so I won’t bog you down with the details. Just know that I registered, then was not going to run it, then asked my coach Steph if she thought I could use it as a training run, then found a flight with a great price and perfect times, then booked it.
This is a benefit of having a coach — with her assurance that this wasn’t a stupid idea, I felt comfortable going for it. Steph adjusted my training plan to have me build up to this mileage, with my 20 miler the weekend before. If I used a canned training plan, I wouldn’t have known how to safely and successfully incorporate this marathon as a training run.
I decided not to say anything to anyone except close friends and people I run with. I didn’t want it to be a thing. I didn’t want people to wish me luck or track me because you don’t wish people luck or track them on a regular training run. I wanted this to feel as close to a training run as possible, without the pressure of a race. I wasn’t racing; I’m racing in Richmond.
I also didn’t want people tracking me in case I didn’t finish, and when I decided to run this race I was struggling with a few minor injuries and truly didn’t know if I had a marathon finish in me after just 13 weeks of training. I’ve dealt with people learning from real-time tracking that I failed before; I didn’t need to go through that again for something as silly as a training run.
This weekend was a chance for me to (1) spend time with my brother, sister in law and baby nephew smush face and (2) run 26.2 in an awesome city, get great swag and have an amazing time.
Here’s how it all went down on Sunday, October 6
Before the race
I woke up to pee at 3:30 am and couldn’t fall back asleep. When it was close to alarm time I got out of bed, got dressed, ate a Picky Bar, drank a bottle of water mixed with Ultima powder, pretended to foam roll, got dressed in throwaway clothes and chatted with my sister. At 6:25 I headed out to walk the < 10 minutes to the race start.
It was surprisingly not that cold out. I felt comfortable in my throwaway fleece clothes but I definitely didn’t need them (aside from the gloves — those I needed, and kept). I found Corral D and I got onto the porta potty line. The line was very long and by the time it was finally my turn they collapsed the corrals. I quickly peed and then ran to catch up with the 4:25 pace group.
While I was still on the porta potty line they announced a moment of silence to honor the Boston Marathon victims.
My goal was to try and stick with the 4:25 pace group the entire race. Not only would that ensure a consistently paced run, I’d also PR by a little, but not too much. I knew I could run faster than my first marathon’s 4:33 only because I didn’t race that one. I ran it to finish, which was exactly what I was doing on this day. The only difference is that I am a stronger, better trained runner.
Each corral got its own countdown to the start by Bill Rodgers, which was awesome. It made being in the fourth wave feel just as special as the first.
Miles 1-5 – The Easiest Miles of My Life [Alternate Title: There Are Miles at this Party?]
As soon as I started running, I teared up. I couldn’t believe I was here, in this awesome city on a beautiful day, running a marathon. I felt great. Like, really great. I stayed right by the 4:25 pace leader and didn’t care to look at my watch. At the expo, they gave out pace bracelets that specifically accounted for the hills on this course. The pace leader was wearing that along with her Garmin, so I trusted her.
We coasted along, and before the first mile was finished I spotted my family spectating right in front of our hotel. Despite wearing neon pink, they didn’t spot me until the last second.
As I went by, I stopped to give Harrison a kiss and tell him I love him.
The first mile flew by, and then I coasted through the second. At around 2.5 the course went uphill, but I barely felt it.
Now that I review my splits, I see that the miles felt so easy because we were running much slower than the bracelet said to. Since this was a training run, I don’t care, but if I was trying to stick to certain paces at certain miles I’m not sure how happy I’d be about this!
1 - 10:34
2 - 11:00
3 - 10:24
What goes up must come down and despite not feeling the uphill, I FLEW down hill! It felt amazing. I loved how freeing it was to pick up the pace and just float right down. I’m guessing the pace leaders were attempting to make up for time lost in the first three miles? Either way, I felt awesome and was still not looking at my watch. I did happen to catch the beep after the fourth mile and was pretty surprised to see this number. During a MARATHON.
4 – 8:39
I also got to see my family again at around 4.8, where I handed them my gloves and arm warmers, kissed the baby again and went on my way.
5 - 8:56
The crowd support was incredible and there were SO MANY BANDS! I was taking everything in and I felt amazing. I knew I made the right decision to travel to PDX and run this marathon.
Miles 6-10 – Step Away From The Pace Group
We left the downtown Portland area and ran through an industrial area. A lot of people complain about this part of the course, but I didn’t mind at all! There was a lot of entertainment — bands, pirates — and there was a lot to take in. This part of the course was also an out and back, and I enjoyed seeing all the runners on their way back.
I watched as every pace group passed by — 3:30, 3:35, 3:40, 3:45. I looked at the runners’ bibs and was surprised to see many people choose a word other than their name to go on the front! Some said things like “1st time” or “Awesome.”
Of course, I was glad to have my name, which really came in handy during the later miles.
I digress. My point is, I had a lot to take in and I wasn’t bored at all. I was also listening to people’s conversations around me.
6 - 9:53
I think it was around Mile 7 that I got ahead of my pace group and never looked back.
7 - 9:48
It was also around this time I ate my first ShotBlok.
8 - 9:47
I felt really good. The miles were flying by, I was barely looking at my watch, I was taking everything in. I didn’t feel like I was pushing my pace, it felt easy and natural.
The turnaround was between miles 8 and 9. I was happy to get there because it meant progress! A new direction, new runners to see coming the other way.
9 - 10:06
10 - 9:56
Mile 10 was the first time I really started to feel like I was running long. My quads got tired and things got a little less easy and rainbows. But I still felt great considering all the miles so far, and I was in very good spirits.
Miles 11 – 18 – Anticipation –> Climbing — > FEELING THE BEST EVER
Mile 11 was another milestone; the full marathoners split from the half marathoners. I was looking forward to this as well because it helps me so much to break the run into milestones and segments.
Miles 11 and 12 ran through neighborhoods, so once again there was really nice crowd support. We passed a running apparel store that had their own decorations and cheering section, which was really nice. These miles felt slightly tougher but not too bad. I really wanted to just get to the halfway point so I could hit my next milestone.
11 - 10:02
12 - 9:58
At mile 13, I decided to take a stick of Vaseline from a volunteer. My lips felt dry for a few miles and I looked forward to seeing the next Vaseline. As I put it on my lips two volunteers started screaming at me! “NO, IT IS VASELINE! IT IS VASELINE NOOOOOO.”
Is Vaseline for dry lips not a thing? I’ve done it my whole life… Also, a volunteer a few miles early handing it out was saying “For your lips and your hips!”
The yelling distracted me and I ended up forgetting to walk through the water station I was at. I jogged while drinking and then beat myself up over potentially causing another NYCM bubble.
Luckily, that didn’t happen.
By this time, we were running on the shoulder of a highway with cars coming at us. One runner said to her friend, “This really sucks” but I didn’t think it was that bad. No, it was not pretty and yes, there were exhaust fumes but I didn’t mind.
13 - 9:46
At this time, I was focused on getting to mile 17. I wanted to get to the infamous St. John’s Bridge. As nervous as I was about this climb (I’d made myself crazy right up through the night before reading someone warn someone else on Twitter about mile 17) I was really, really looking forward to it. I needed to just know what it was like so I could get over the anticipation. I also felt that once I got past it, the worst would be over and the last 8 miles would be smooth sailing.
Famous last words!
14 - 9:55
15 - 9:56
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the hill actually started at mile 16. One less mile of anticipation! Has any marathon runner ever been this happy to see a long, steep hill before?
So, before the race I looked up the elevation of St. John’s Bridge. What I didn’t know about was the mile-long hill leading up TO the bridge. All in all, this was almost a full two mile climb. This was the longest, steepest hill I’ve ever run. I felt like I was scaling the side of a mountain.
Despite the fact that almost every single runner around me was walking, I powered up the hill as best I could. I refused to stop running. I was actually shocked by how many people began walking as soon as the hill started. Perhaps it is a race strategy?
I wouldn’t walk though. I knew my pace (which I’d been really happy about up until this point) would slow, but I also knew that the 4:25 pace group planned for an 11:01 pace for this hill. I knew I built up enough time that I could lose a little.
16 - 9:59
Turns out, I didn’t lose anything!
17 - 10:01
I even stayed strong as I ran up the bridge! According to my watch, the total elevation was 243 feet. The reward was breathtaking:
As I reached the top of this hill, I felt the most intense joy I’ve ever felt while running. My face broke into a huge smile. I may have even cheered. Being this high up, knowing I conquered that hill without even slowing down, running across the St. John’s Bridge — I felt like I EARNED this view.
I heard so much before the race about this hill. I worried myself sick about not getting in enough hill training specifically for this hill. But no one told me how rewarding the view is from the top!
Running across the peak of this bridge was the single best moment of my running career so far.
Coming down the other side of the hill was especially sweet.
As we exited the bridge, there were so many spectators cheering! THIS was the “wall of sound” I expected but didn’t really hear after the Queensboro Bridge at the New York City Marathon.
I ate it up. I could not stop smiling, pushing my pace, feeling on top of the world.
If I walked up that hill, this downhill wouldn’t have felt nearly so sweet. I embraced this part of the bridge feeling strong, knowing I earned this incredible feeling.
Sure, running down hill feels nice at any time, but it feels SO much more satisfying knowing you pushed yourself and worked your hardest to get there.
18 - 9:37
Miles 19-25 – It All Falls Apart [Alternate Title: Shoot Me]
I blame the downhill, though it could just as easily be running for 19 miles at a faster pace than I normally run. But I blame the downhill.
Quick history: About 10 years ago, long before I ever started running, I went to the doctor about sharp pain on the outside of my left knee that hurt most when I went down stairs or downhill. He diagnosed me with Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome (though it is more likely my IT band) and sent me off to PT. Over the years, the pain would come and go. When I started running, the pain was constant and plagued me the first year or two of my running career. Once I started taking Refine Method and wearing the right kind of running sneakers for me (in my case, that was NOT the shoes JackRabbit recommends) the pain disappeared. I ran successfully without any knee pain for three years, only feeling it during the last mile of the Newport Half Marathon in September.
19 - 9:53
As I ran through a neighborhood with great crowd support, my left knee stopped working. My old pain came back on the outside of my knee and like I said, I blamed the downhill.
The pain was excruciating. I could barely lift my leg. I felt powerless as my pace slowed down.
20 - 10:20
After hitting mile 20 (another milestone I was looking forward to) I was hobbling as best I could through this sharp pain. After what felt like a nice amount of distance covered, I looked at my watch to see how far I’d gone.
This became the part of the race where I couldn’t keep from checking my watch constantly, and being constantly disheartened by how slowly each mile was progressing.
Earlier in the race I didn’t care to glance at my watch and now I could barely take my eyes off it. Each of these next few miles felt like an eternity.
We ran past the University of Portland, alongside some gorgeous views overlooking the Willamette River. I tried to enjoy the view despite the pain.
21 - 10:17
For the first time, I thought about quitting. I wanted nothing more than to stop running. It was frustrating because my lungs felt fine, my legs felt mostly fine, but my knee was killing me. I wasn’t pushing my pace but running felt impossible because of this one stupid thing! If this pain happened earlier in the race I would have had to stop, but at mile 21 there is really no point. I knew I could get to the finish, as much as it hurt.
I also thought about my pace. Despite not knowing math and refusing to look at my overall time, I had wondered after coming off the bridge if I might somehow hit sub-4:20. I said goodbye to those thoughts and instead wondered if the 4:25 pace group would catch up to me soon.
If they did, I hoped I could at least stick with them.
I tried not to worry too much about my pace since this was a training run, after all. This was not the time to push myself and attempt to run hard through pain. The last thing I wanted was to seriously injure myself — especially since my rib, neck and calf injuries all felt completely better during this marathon.
22 - 9:58
The redeeming part about these miles was the spectators. Every time someone cheered for me by name, I momentarily forgot about my pain. I felt stronger, happier, better if only for a few seconds.
When people cheered for me by name at mile 18, I smiled and waved and thanked them. At this time, I managed a grateful look of acknowledgement, a small smile if I could muster one and a mouthed thank you.
The spectators got me through these miles because I was not able to do it on my own.
23 - 10:16
We ran through a long stretch with no spectators, no bands, no aid station and nothing at all to see. This was the worst part of the marathon for me. I needed cheering and music and distraction. Many runners on my side were walking and as we approached an overpass with a railing, even more stopped to stretch.
I resisted the urge to walk with every ounce of strength I had. It was tempting; stretching was tempting too. But I didn’t want to prolong finishing this thing and being able to stop for good. Plus, I didn’t know if I would do more harm than good and have trouble starting up again.
24 - 10:28
I walked through every single water station throughout this race, but this was the first time I considered doing so a treat. It was my time to walk without “stopping to walk.” I embraced those few steps of rest, took my sip and continued on my way. We finally got off the long boring empty road and heading up an incline to the Broadway Bridge. Even though this hill was minor, especially compared to the St. John’s Bridge, it felt so much harder.
Throughout the race, my watch was really on point with the mile markers. Until this mile. This mile that felt forever was also the mile that my watch gave me an additional .18.
25 - 10:25
ONE MORE MILE TO GO. MY KNEE HURTS SO MUCH. I felt nostalgic for the first 10 miles when they flew by. How can this mile be the same distance as mile 3?
I will say this: I was so glad to be back in downtown Portland. Crowds! People! Bands!
Mile 26 – Running is So Mental
With one mile to go, I was able to pick up the pace a little. My watch was still telling me the miles were taking forever, but at least I would see my family soon and shortly after that, I’d be finished with my second marathon!
As I turned onto 1st avenue, knowing I would soon see my family, I forgot about my knee pain. I barely even felt it! Overall, everything felt so hard and I wanted so much to stop running, but the sharpness of my knee wasn’t there. I mean, it was there, but I didn’t notice it.
I was able to lift my leg again!
Running is so mental.
26 – 9:46
With just a tiny bit left to go I saw my family. They shouted that I was looking great — and I was! Somehow I was all smiles again, feeling awesome, embracing the crowds cheering me on.
Seeing my family gave me the boost I needed to finish strong!
Once again, proof that I made the right decision traveling across the country and running this marathon.
Someone yelled out “just a couple of turns to go and then you’re finished!”
OK then. Turn one. Turn two. I see the finish line but it looks so far.
I gave the finish everything I could. . . and then I was DONE!
.38 – 9:28
Official time: 4:23:12
AAAHHHHHH!!!!! I both can and can’t believe it. Two years ago I ran my first (and up until this, only) marathon in Richmond in 4:33:29. My goal was to finish (hopefully in less than five hours), and I ran at a pretty leisurely pace, surprising myself that I could run 26.2 miles in 4:33. I felt great that day!
So I knew that with smarter, coached training this year, I could run a training run marathon faster than that. I figured I’d try to have a very small PR in Portland, knowing that I was saving the racing for Richmond six weeks later. I also didn’t run on fresh legs; I ran 20 miles the weekend before and did a 6×1000 workout during the week.
That’s why I decided to try and stick with the 4:25 pace group. But my “easy” marathon pace — even with my knee issues — seems to be a little faster than that. This gives me the confidence boost I needed to feel more comfortable in setting goals to race my goal marathon in Richmond this year.
Some cool pieces of information thanks to Runpix:
As much as I was struggling in those last five miles with my knee pain, it looks like other people were having their own challenges as well. This data makes me feel more confident because I feel like I really powered through by passing so many people, without getting passed as much.
Negative splits FTW!
My pace/elevation chart along with the course map via my Nike+ GPS.
And finally, the #1 reason I travel to the Pacific Northwest, my #1 spectator:
Though the finisher’s shirt, which describes the entire course, is the coolest one I have!
The 2013 Portland Marathon was one of the all time best days of my life! After Richmond in 2011, I said I was never running a marathon again. Actually, I was saying that during training that year!
But I’m enjoying training so much more now that I’m doing it right. I’m loving running. I’m thriving off setting goals and seeing myself improve. And I’m looking forward not only to Richmond in November, but also to Eugene in July.
The amount of fun I had during this race, especially in the first 10 miles, conquering that anticipated hill, the view from the top (literally) and crossing the finish line — I LOVE this. I feed off the energy of the marathon. I’m not done, at least not anytime soon.
Richmond was so amazing and welcoming, and now I can say Portland was too. This race had so many bands, so much crowd support, a fun course and many milestones.
Also, doughnut holes at the finish.
I recommend it!
With all that said, the Portland Marathon WAS a training run, and here’s how the rest of last week’s training went:
Week 13: September 30 – October 6
- Monday – OFF
- Tuesday –50:41 mins easy + 6 x 100m strides (5.1 mi)
- Wednesday - 15 min w.u. 6 x 1000 @half mar effort with 2 min rest 14 min c.d. (7 mi, 1000m paces: 8’13, 8’55, 9’31, 9’41, 9’12″, 8’28)
- Thursday – OFF
- Friday – OFF
- Saturday - 30 mins easy + 4 x 100m strides (3.12 mi)
- Sunday – Portland Marathon (26.2 mi, 4:23:12)
Total: 41.42 miles
I am still so happy! This week proved to me that I am a stronger runner than I think. I’m looking forward to more tempos at marathon pace because now I am focused on my goal more than ever.
Thoughts on running a marathon as a training run? Would you ever do it? Have you?