2017 Portland Marathon Recap

It’s Finally OVER

Although I can say with sincerity that I will continue to run from time to time, having completed the training for my first marathon, I am SO GLAD IT’S FINALLY OVER.  While I only trained for about 2 months, it was a lot of hours and a lot of miles on the legs, which in my opinion would have been better spent on the seat of one of my bikes.  Still, training for and running a marathon has been on my bucket list for a while now, and I’m glad I finally a) have one in the books, and b) feel pretty happy with my time.

6:21 splits and placed 10th overall in the standings.

Newbie Training

Although I’m no expert in the realm of marathon training, my sister is, with 10 marathons under her belt after completing the Portland Marathon with me.  I relied a lot on her expertise over the course of my own training regiment as I tweaked it from time to time based on her feedback.  I also coach Cross-Country, so my running schedule was highly dependent on my students’ running schedule.

My students goofing around at the Nike Portland XC Invitational.

Since my cross country team races on Wednesdays, Wednesdays were generally my rest day, but otherwise I followed their routines and would add a few miles on days where I felt I didn’t get he best workout.  My general running routine followed this pattern:

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Morning: *Group Ride Class
Afternoon: Long Run
Morning: *Group Power Class
Afternoon: Interval Training
Morning: Group Ride Class
Afternoon: REST
Morning: Group Power Class
Afternoon: Hill Training
Morning: REST
Afternoon: Track Day/ Interval Training
LONG RUN
Sunday Fun Day, i.e. bike somewhere
  • *Group Ride: Hour long stationary bike class at my gym.
  • *Group Power: Hour long weights class at my gym.

Sometimes my long run would line up on a Sunday, depending on what went on that weekend, but I basically worked out in some fashion 6-7 days a week.  My long days increased incrementally, and I hit three 20+ mile runs before tapering for the last two weeks leading up to the marathon.  Throughout my training, I averaged around 50 miles a week, which is a pretty normal intermediate mileage as far as training totals go for marathons, or so I’m told.

The Race

After successfully making it through tapering week without going stir crazy (seriously, sitting around for a week after running almost every day can bring one about as close to psychosis as it gets), race day arrived Sunday morning.  Trish and I got up at 3:45am so we could go pick up my sister and Mike and head to the race.  We arrived at the race site in downtown Portland around 5:30am, which gave us an hour and a half of time to get ourselves mentally prepared.

Fun fact about racing marathons: apparently people buy ‘throw-away’ clothes at Goodwill to keep warm on race day, and then literally throw them on the side of the road next to the start line before the race starts.  Thank goodness for my sister, Ashley, who filled me in on this little bit of insight, or I would have been freezing cold leading up to the start of the race.

Throw away clothes.

The route itself was an out-and back, with some decent climbing up the St. John’s bridge, but otherwise relatively flat.  The way back was a little rough for me because I felt like I was swimming against the current with all the runners heading straight at me and little room for me to run along next to them.  Overall though, it wasn’t too bad.

Going into the race, I had no idea what splits I should run.  For most of my long runs, I had trained at about a 6:50 pace and then sped up for the last three or four miles, but as I tapered I found that I could easily run a 6:30 pace for 18 miles.  The day before the race, I settled on running 6:30s for the first 10 miles and then assessing the situation from there.

Of course, when the race started at 7am, all of that planning went out the window.  I went out fast with a 6:19 first mile, and then settled into the 6:20s after reminding myself that I had 25 miles to go.  Marathon running is so vastly different then any other type of race I’ve experienced because it’s all about holding back so that you don’t bonk 18 miles in.  And so that’s what I did to the best of my ability for the first 13 miles of the race, remembering everything I read online about overcooking the legs when you’re caught up in marathon race euphoria. Watching other runners, listening to live music, and keeping my self in check distracted me quite effectively, and the first 13 miles went by pretty fast.  Then things got serious.

I had been sticking to my 6:20s pace throughout the race, with small changes depending on the grade I was running, but when I turned the corner and started heading back the way I came around mile 14 or 15, I knew it was time to put the hammer down.  I ran miles 13 and 14 at a 6:19, and then jumped down to a 6:02 for mile 15… whoops.  That was a little too fast.

So I dialed back and ran in the low teens for a couple miles.  Over the course of miles 15-24, I ran all sub 6:20 miles, with the exception of one split at mile 23 (6:23) that included the last hill of the race, and felt like I was going to be able to really race it home fast for the last 2.2 miles.  Unfortunately for me, that’s about when the calf cramps took over.

I’ve gotten calf cramps in the middle of races before, and they are rather debilitating.  These cramps were no exception.  I tried to avoid my normal running gate and run a bit more flat footed as that lessened the flex in my calf, but both of my calves kept cramping.  I tried snagging some water at the last water station and downing the whole thing, but the calves kept cramping.  I ended up settling on the fact that I would NOT be ‘racing it home’ in the last few miles.  Instead, I finished with a 6:30 an 6:40 pace, my slowest two miles of the race.

Although it’s easy to look back and dissect the little things that went wrong, overall I felt really happy with how the race turned out for me.  I never got injured during my training; The weather the day of the race was perfect; I not only completed the marathon, but finished below my goal time of 2:55; I’d say that for a first go at it, my first marathon was a success.  I finished with a 2:48 – a 6:21 split according to the actual mileage I ran on the course – and placed 10th overall.

And the race was a huge success for my sister as well.  Despite some rather debilitating injuries throughout her training, she finished with a 3:20; not her best time by any means, but easily a Boston qualifier.

The Event

And now onto the not-so-good things about the race.  I’ve done a number of organized runs, duathlons, and other races in my life, and I must say, the Portland Marathon was a bit of a let-down for allegedly being one of the most popular marathons in the country.  My sister said that the expo the marathon had before the run was MUCH smaller than other major marathons she has run, and for being so expensive, there was little swag to be had at any of the vendors.

Also, the post-race food situation was DISMAL.  They had a small assortment of fruit and donuts at the end of the race, but provided no plates, napkins, or utensils, so there was no way to actually load up on any post-race food.

Once pushed through the line of food that I couldn’t eat, I got to the complimentary t-shirt section.  They gave all participants of the marathon a long-sleeve tech shirt.  Very nice.  But I’m not done complaining yet, so enough about the one good thing.  Where was my post race beer?  There’s always a post-race beer at running events in the pacific northwest!  Where’s my piece of pie?  There’s always pie or cake or something sweet and delicious!  And where in the name of everything holy is a plate for me to put my grapes and apple slices and bananas that I want to eat?!  WHERE IS IT???!!!

In my delirious state I did randomly stumble up to a booth that gave me a piece of warm bread with peanut butter on it as well as a loaf to take home, so my swag in total equaled one complimentary t-shirt and a loaf of bread.  Hmmmm…

So post-race grade: D+.  But despite the poorly resourced post-run festivities, Ash and I both had a great time running in the event.  There were surprisingly few spectators, but there was live music parceled throughout the race, and people with random signs encouraging racers to finish strong.  The culture of the sport, however small in number, was strong among those watching this year’s race.

The First of Many?

So will I ever do a marathon again?  That’s tough to say at this point.  I felt like running a marathon was kind of a bucket list item for me, and now that it’s over, I’m REALLY excited to get back on my bike(s).  I don’t think I caught the ‘marathon fever’ that people claim happens after their first marathon (possibly because of the poorly run event), but I may end up running the Boston in 2019 since a) I qualified, b) my sister qualified, and c) it would be really fun to run one more with her.  We’ll see how I’m feeling about it when the time comes to register.