On Sunday, I completed the 2016 Portland Marathon! It was a tough, windy, wet race, but I’m so glad I got to run it this year!
Unlike last year, I’ve been training consistently and seriously for this marathon, switching from half marathon to full marathon training after the Twilight Half Marathon in mid-July. Last year, I walked the first 6 miles (intentionally) and the most of the last mile (unintentionally). This year, I followed my interval timer and planned walk-run method for the entire 26.2 miles, making this a very different race than my first marathon.
Aside from training and my race plan, the other major difference was the weather!
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT FOR GREATER PORTLAND AREA
Issued Sat, Oct 9
…Heavy rainfall totals expected over Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington this Sunday…
A slow moving cold front dropping southward through Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon will lead to a very wet Sunday.
Oh joy. I have run a race in every month in Oregon and this was the wettest race of my life. Luckily, the temperatures remained mild, although the way some of the marathoners dressed, you’d never know it. Parkas, really?
Mom and I started in H corral with Melissa and her friend Sheila, while Jason and Perrin started in C corral. I haven’t run the same event as Perrin since we ran the 2014 Tinker Bell Half marathon together. Back then, she was in med school, but this time she took a break out of her residency to fly to Portland to run with us. Jason almost never has anyone to run with, so it was a real treat for him to start the race with someone.
My race plan was to start the race with a 30 sec run/30 sec walk interval and then, if I felt strong, switching to 50 second run/ 35 second walk intervals for a while and then finishing the race back on a 30/30 interval.
On my last training run of 24 miles, I had stuck to 30/30s, but in previous long runs I had run a combination because I was training in part with Taylor to do 50/35 for the Disneyland Half Marathon. Of course, either of these was a big difference over last year, when I was on a 50 second walk/ 30 second run interval for a lot of the race.
The wait in the corrals wasn’t too bad, and I do love the Portland Marathon tradition of all the runners singing the national anthem together. It’s a very cool moment. After a long wait, it was our turn to start!
The first few miles flew by. At the very beginning of the course, there is an out and back area, and I passed the time trying to spot Jason and Perrin. I spotted them both, although they were already separated. A quick kiss from Jason was shortly followed by a hug from Perrin. It was so cool spotting them. Before I knew it, we were passing the 5K mark!
How is it that 3.1 miles feels so long when I’m running a 5K, but so short in this race? Somewhere around this point, my fitbit buzzed, letting me know I had hit 10,000 steps. The fireworks and congratulations emanating from the device on my wrist felt a little premature with over 20 miles left to run.
We down the waterfront, where, on the opposite side of the street, we watched the first of the half-marathoners turning onto the finishing stretch. We also saw Adam Gorlitsky, founder of the I Got Legs charity, finishing his event. Despite being paralyzed, Adam competes in races using a robotic exoskeleton that helps him to walk.
Although it was miserable weather, tons of people were there to cheer us on.
Soon we were passing the 6 mile marker and I recalled the previous year when it was the signal for us to start running. The 10K marker blew by and I was feeling great. After this marker, however, we hit a long straightaway on Naito.
One bright spot was seeing Perrin going the other direction, and we had time for a quick hug and a “see you at the finish” and “have a good race.” We were getting soaked as the wind was blowing rain our direction. Water dripped down off my hat. It a rough section, but I stayed in high spirits, grinning despite the wet.
We passed the Pirates of Portlandia and eventually reached the turnaround. At the turnaround people were blowing giant bubbles that glistened and stuck to the wet ground. Having the wind and the rain suddenly at our backs was a huge morale booster.
At this point, I was still feeling amazing and I started to talk to mom about my race plan. If I switched to 50/35 intervals, it would mean running the rest of the race alone. However, I really felt great and wondered how amazing I could do this race if I pushed myself.
Right before mile 10, we saw the Pirates of Portlandia again and we had to stop for photos. Since I already had my phone out and the rain was to my back, it was also the best time to switch my run timer to the new intervals. I bid goodbye to mom, although it wouldn’t be the last I saw of her.
Soon the half-marathoners split from the marathoners and we turned a corner on our way to looping back toward the St. John’s Bridge and inot the rain. It took me a mile or two to adjust and settle into the new intervals. As I was walking up a hill near the 13 mile mark, Mom caught up with me! We just had time for her to bequeath a gift of candy corn to me before we separated again.
We wound through neighborhoods and all of a sudden, it was mile 13! Already halfway and I was feeling fine. However, the next stretch was a straight industrial road, heading back into the wind and rain. I set my sights on mile 16, which I knew would mark the lead up to the St. John’s Bridge.
It was soaking. I wrung out the sides of my shirt occasionally, trying to lighten it up. The spray from the trucks driving past would have soaked us if we weren’t already past saturation levels. But the stretch wasn’t devoid of fun. I especially loved running past a group of bagpipers.
And then there it was, Checkpoint Charlie and the large hill leading up to the St. John’s Bridge! Nearing the top of the hill, who caught up with me again, but mom! She really powers up those hills, passing people left and right.
Awesome! It’s great to have a running partner just in time for a great photo op!
Unlike last year, I couldn’t see all the way into downtown, but I consider that a bonus. The clouds looked really cool and it was still a great view without the demoralizing thought of “I have to run all the way back there?”
Mom and I ran part of the bridge together, but after that, I wouldn’t see her until the finish. Around mile 18, a band with a great female singer broke out “Do You Believe in Magic” and I broke out my running dance moves, lip-syncing and getting pumped up. I guess I amused some of the spectators, who started laughing. I suppose most people’s faces are grimacing at that point, but I was too busy ignoring that impulse.
My comeuppance was later in that same mile. About mile 18.5 to 20, I started struggling. I could feel a blister on my toe. My energy was low and I started chowing down on food, concentrating on my interval and telling myself I could switch back to 30/30 once I got to mile 20. People cheering along the route really kept me going.
At mile 20, I spotted Taylor, who braved the wet weather to come out and cheer. I was so excited to see him and he jogged with me a little ways down the street, talking with me and telling me how I could totally rock the rest of the race. “Only a 10K left and you can do a 10K! Easy peasy.” It was a great boost right when I needed it. I was so excited and buoyed by his presence that I forget that I had spent the last 5 miles thinking that I could switch to shorter run intervals at mile 20.
At mile 21, I switched back to 30/30 intervals and started the countdown to the end of the race. Down past the Adidas Campus and toward the Max tracks, I took advantage of the downhill and concentrated on each 30 second timer as it came.
I could feel the tiredness creeping up on me so I took a gel block at each mile marker. At some point, I also sucked down a lime gu. That gu survived many a long-run as emergency back up fuel, but I definitely needed it on this run. I thought about my music, concentrating on songs and singing them in my head.
I started to talk through mantras, and focused on my steady pace. I found out later how much it paid off.
I was feeling sore, but I amused myself by waving to random people. I waved to two men waiting for the delayed MAX train, who laughed in surprise and waved back. I waved to the people stuck on the delayed MAX train. I waved to bored spectators, and random people traveling to other places.
Before I knew it, I was heading over my final bridge. With a breeze blowing and the rain finally slackening, I concentrated on feelings of gratitude for being able to do such a thing. Running over that final bridge was amazing and rewarding. In a way, crossing it was the way of telling me that I had conquered the race, with only the last little bit ahead of me.
Back through the streets of Portland, I ran, reaching the mile 25 marker. In the previous year, this was where my body had given out, as I ended up going from run/walk intervals to walk/walk slower intervals. This year, I stuck with my timer. One 30 second interval at a time, I was moving ever closer to the finish line.
At mile 26, I spotted Perrin and Jason (with finisher medals) and Dad and my Aunt Chris, cheering me to the finish. Right as I turned two the final couple blocks, I chatted with an older fellow whose inspirational story led from a 2 year recovery to this finishing moment. Once we turned the final corner, I got ready to sprint and he said “go for it.”
I was surprised to realize I still had enough for a sprint and I sprinted toward that line with all my might, crossing the line and then nearly stumbling into the volunteers.
I finished my second full marathon, following intervals the full time!
My finishing chute experience was much better this year; I didn’t have to visit medical and they hadn’t run out of roses to hand to runners! I walked slowly, so so slowly through the chute, picking up food and my shirt, coin, pendant and other things. By the time I finished getting my race photo, Mom caught up with me! We walked out of the chute to meet up with the others.
After that, it was time for delicious mac n’ cheese at Rock Bottom Brewery! All in all, a very successful run, although it will take me days to recover. So sore!
It reminds me that the marathon is very different from the half marathon. Both are achievements worth celebrating, but a marathon is a rare beast and not a race to ever be taken lightly. Once you pass the 20 mile mark, the game changes completely.
The past two years running the Portland Marathon have been amazing and well worth the effort. It’s the perfect first marathon and I feel so proud to run this prestigious event right in my own backyard.
However, we quickly found out that we all ran an extra half mile (Jason & Perrin in Corral C as well as the rest of us in Corral G), which is maddening. We all want PR’s and some in our group had originally planned to try to qualify. I know it messed with Jason’s brain, since he runs with a GPS watch. I’m lucky it didn’t affect my experience, just my time.
I really did have a great race, but my heart does go out to others. My only wish is that Portland Marathon, which usually puts on a great event, would handle this with compassion and responsibility.
In my own headspace, the two course mistakes that I’ve experienced this year balance each other out. I ran a half mile less at the Twilight Half, robbing me of a chance to have valid PR in a half marathon, but I ran a half mile more at the Portland Marathon and PR’d regardless.
Distance: 26.7 miles. It turns out corrals C through G ran an extra half-mile. I still got my PR, but that adds about 7 minutes (at least) to my time. It surprises me that such a well-known and important race would make such a mistake. Does this make me an ultra-marathoner? (See Run Oregon blog “What happened with the Portland Marathon Course anyway?“)
Ran With: First 10 miles with Mom, then by myself
Word of the Day: Maceration: the softening and breaking down of skin resulting from prolonged exposure to moisture. My feet were macerated after 6+ hours of being soaking wet. They were wrinkled and white and a bit of my skin accidentally sloughed off as I took off my socks. It wasn’t painful, just creepy. Thanks Doctor Perrin for the vocabulary word…