Ran the Eugene Marathon last Sunday, under near perfect weather conditions. This was my 19th marathon completed and 7th attempt to qualify for Boston and get into the race. I earned a BQ in 12/2013 but missed getting into the race by 30 seconds. (no, i’m not BITTER)
Seven attempts is a lot of failure but on the flip side, is it also lots of lessons learned. All those lessons learned helped me have a pretty darn good race in Eugene.
I never sleep much the night before a marathon, too many things to think/consider/worry about, etc about in my head. Think I turned off the light about 11:30pm Saturday with the alarm set for 3:35am and wake up call (the back up alarm) set for 3:45am. I’ve never slept through an alarm clock on race day and with a ‘back up’, I moved the phone so had to get out of bed to answer it, no problem.
When the alarm fired, I popped out of bed and immediately thought, “oh shit, I gotta run 26 miles starting in 4 hours.” Bit of panic set in. Truthfully, the panic was mild because I really didn’t think I had a legit shot at my “A” goal, 3:22. If I had completed more or all of my training with fewer missed long runs and less recent sickness, I would be much more nervous/panic because I would expect to give the BQ a serious attempt. Although, running a marathon without trying to set a new PR and BQ is no walk in the woods. In about 6 hours, I was going to hurt.
Took a quick shower to help me wake up then downed my standard race day breakfast:
- small bottle of OJ
- small plain yogurt
- Bagel with PB&J
- some water
I try to only drink about 20 oz of liquid by 2 hours before the gun. That 2 hr window allows the liquid to travel through my system ‘before’ I start the race.
About 4:45am, I dressed with extra sweatshirt on top and went out side for a brief, 10minute slow jog. This jog is just to get outside and loosen up a bit. Nice and mild, no rain and no wind. Left the hotel room at 5:50 for the 10min walk to the startling line.
The race began and ended at ‘Historic’ Hayward field, on the University of Oregon campus. I’d heard the field called ‘historic’ before but didn’t know the actual name is “Historic Hayward Field.” That is painted on the stadium wall.
For the next hour, I paced, stretched, used the porta potties and tried to get my game face on. The half and full marathoners all begin together. To help move the crowd, they created corrals, based upon your estimated finish time. I was assigned corral “B” so I lined up near the front of that section. And then the gun was fired.
Likely, based upon all the “lessons learned” from other marathons, no issues in the early part of the race. The first 6 miles rapidly slipped past and my focus was to get through using as likely energy as possible, while holding pace. The magic pace target was 7:43 for 3:22 finish. After 6 miles, on pace.
One audible indication of a runner beginning to struggle to hold a pace is labored breathing. Every single race, it astounds me how quickly I hear other nearby runners’ breathing heavy. This race, I first heard someone after mile one. As I passed this person, I noticed they were running the half. Still, they were going to have a LONG 12 more miles.
Miles 7-13, the crack was starting to appear in the armor. I was holding pace but I think by mile 10 I was working harder than I should have been, to keep pace. My legs already felt heavy and I avoided agreeing with the writing on the wall. It was going to be a tough day.
The section of the race I am most proud of was mile 14-20. At 14, I was still on BQ pace but mile 15 slipped to a 7:57 mile. If I couldn’t hold 7:43 then I was determined to hold my pace under 8 minutes. For miles 14-20, I did just that:
Mile 21, the wheels fell off- 8:17 and from there, further slowed down. Got a bit ugly. I did hit the wall at mile 25 (9:40 pace) but at least the impact was more gentle compared to other races. And I picked up the pace at 26 (9:15) for the entrance into Hayward Field.
About 100 yards from the entrance into the stadium, I was struggling, doing the infamous marathon shuffle. I was hurting and out of gas. Good crowd lined the street. Suddenly started yelling out loud to myself, “move it, lets go!” I did not want to shuffle into the stadium, so tried to pick up my pace. A guy in the crowd clearly heard me and yelled back, ” go man go!” As I increased to an ugly sprint at the gate a roar boomed from the crowd. An awesome moment.
This ‘lean’ may not be what Sheryl Sandberg means: (photo by MarathonPhoto.com)
Why the bonk? I think I fueled adequately, drink 20 oz per hour. Ate 5 GU over the entire race. So, I think the simple answer is that my training let me down. My legs simply couldn’t hold a 7:43 pace for 26 miles. Those missed long runs came back to haunt.
Regardless of finishing time, it was great day for a jog. Near perfect conditions, a flat course through a nice, quiet, tree lined college town. Much of the course was on a bike trail that follows the Willamette river. One of the main sponsors was Krusteaz’s pancakes. And they offered free flapjacks at the finish.
About mile 10, just before the half split from the full marathon course, I was chatting with a runner. He mentioned he was about to turn off the trail, for the half course. And in 20 minutes expected to be eating a tall stack of pancakes, I called back, “save me a few.”
Nearly two hours later, those pancakes hit the spot.