Saturday, May 8, 2010

2010 Eugene Marathon

Ken and I arrived in Eugene early on Saturday afternoon, navigated the crowded and overheated expo/packet pickup at the Hilton, met up with Rondy (Rusty), Skully (Sondra), Jeff (Jeff), Tom (Tom), and some other girls for dinner, then settled in for an early bedtime. Side note: there are lots of evil ducks, geese, and nutria roaming this town...beware.

Race morning was just as uneventful as the prior evening. I slept like crap as is customary on race-eve, decided to finally just get out of bed around 4:30am, showered, ate a skimpy hotel continental breakfast, and then sat in the car near the race start trying to stay warm as long as possible. Ken was dropping me off and then heading back to the hotel to have a leisurely morning of packing back up and checking out. With about 30 minutes until go time, I made my way to the porta-potty lines and then the starting corral. Unlike my last stand-alone marathon (Portland Marathon), there was no wandering anxiously between pace groups. I saw the 12:00 sign and parked it right there until the gun went off. Based on my training lately, I wasn't fooling myself or anyone else by shooting for something faster.
Apparently the national anthem was sung and someone said enlightening and significant things over the PA system. Back in the 12:00 pace group, you don't hear any of this. I didn't even hear the start gun. Right around this time Jeff wandered up nonchalantly, as if there wasn't even a race starting. He was doing the half marathon, and this was a nice, calming aura to be around at this moment. Thanks Jeff! He ran with me for about a mile or so, and since he typically runs about 3:00/mile faster than me, I finally told him to go start running.
Miles 1-8 felt great. I was running ahead of pace, the crowd was energizing, and the air was cool and crisp. And I got to see Ken a couple of times. Miles 8-11 were still fun, but I was starting to think "I could just split off at mile 11 with the half-marathoners and then let the officials know". When mile 11 showed up, and every single last person around me split to the left, I continued right to complete another 15.2 miles. It got pretty lonely here, but the sun was starting to peak out, I had some nice tunes on the iphone, and I was falling into my groove. That "groove" is why I love to run. I can't say that I ever really experience the "runners high". But when my feet fall into a rythm, my breathing matches the foot falls, and my mind gets quiet, not much else compares to that.

Miles 11-20 were great as well. I had the biggest ear-to-ear grin on my face and didn't ever want to stop running. The crowds along the course cheered so loud, which made me smile even wider. Usually, the loudest cheers are for those who look strong and also for those who look like absolute hell. I like to think that these cheers were not due to the latter. I was also on track to have a smashing PR by over 20 minutes.
I should mention that by this point, I had taken in about 3 gels (100 cal/gel), 1/2 banana (50 cal), and maybe 4 oz of gatorade (less than 50 cals). So yeah, less than 400 cals over 20 miles. Nothing sounded appetizing, and I wasn't able to force myself to eat. I wish I had that problem ALL of the time... Anyway, it was no suprise that I started to lose steam here. My short-lived dream of a huge PR disasppeared, and I was forced into salvage mode.

From miles 22 through 25 I ran when I could and walked when I couldn't. I was still having fun, but I was fighting hard against that famed trip to Bonk Town. My legs still felt okay, my feet hurt a bit, but I was getting really sleepy. Ken gave me a little pick-me-up at mile 23, and then it was up to me to bring it in for the last 5k.
Finally, mile 25 appeared. 1.2 miles to go. I started crying here. I don't usually cry in races, but sometimes endorphins have a way of triggering the waterworks. I was also extremely thankful that I would be able to take off my shoes soon. The final stretch of the marathon takes you into the entrance of Hayward Field, one of the most historic track and field venues in the country. Being towards the back of the pack, I pretty much had the entire track to myself. The stadium seemed enormous at that moment and it was a little overwhelming. The finish line is half-way around the track. Cross through, get a medal, get a space blanket, get your chip off, and then pancakes. Yes, pancakes. They were awesome and the first thing that sounded appetizing all day.
After moseying around the finishers area, I wandered behind the grand stands to meet up with Ken. As we were walking back to the car, I could not think of anything more marvelous than laying in the shaded green grass next to the sidewalk. So I did. And within 5 minutes I was asleep. Ken came back with the car, loaded me up, and took me straight for salty food and recovery drinks. But only after helping me change out of stinky clothes in the middle of a busy parking lot. What an awesome husband.
Final time = 5:16:11 (12:05 pace), for an almost 2-minute PR

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