October 8, 2008

Race Report: Portland Marathon

First, a totally bizarre story from the plane. I picked up a book from the library, How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls, by Zoey Dean. I got it a few weeks ago, but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. A month or so ago, I was going through the lineup of new TV shows for the fall, and I came across Privileged, which sounded interesting. So I got on the plane, and until I was able to turn on my computer, I read. It was so fun and cute – very Devil Wears Prada. Well, imagine my surprise when after a few hours of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, I decided to give Privileged a try and found that it’s based on How To Teach Filthy Rich Girls! The show is kind of poorly written and acted, and very cliched. I much prefer the book so far, but it’s still entertaining enough to watch πŸ™‚

In other news, Saturday morning was my roommate’s first triathlon! She did a sprint triathlon in Montauk, Long Island, and I’m really sad that I couldn’t be out there to cheer her on. I know she recently found my blog, but I’m not sure if she reads it regularly. Just in case, be sure to wish her a hearty congratulations in the comments, and tell her to come join me for a marathon πŸ™‚

Saturday afternoon, I got into Portland just in time to get my car and head for my hotel to take a conference call. Yup, working on Saturdays does suck. After the call and some other work, I headed off to the expo, where I got to meet Sassy Molassy and her friends! My first time meeting a RBF – how cool πŸ™‚ The expo was huge, encompassing two floors, and I took advantage of the opportunity to get a free gait analysis by a physical therapy practice that had set up shop. They asked if I had any injuries, and I unthinkingly replied “no,” forgetting about my knee. I realized my mistake while I was in the middle of the test, but they surprised me by saying that my mechanics are a bit uneven and that it would probably eventually lead to pain in my right knee! I was impressed. They said that my shoes (Brooks Adrenaline 8s) were perfect for me, but that I needed to concentrate on my running form to solve the problem. I’ve always been complimented on my running form, but by non-runners, who just tell me that I look awesome. It turns out that part of why I look “awesome” is that I’m holding my upper body completely rigid as I run (thank you, ballet training). Without any movement in the upper body, the rotation needed to kick my leg out is coming from my hips/knee, and my right foot pronates more than my left, so that explains why the pain is concentrated in my right side. I promised to work on it, and was pleased that what they had said made perfect sense.

After the expo, I chatted with Boyfriend for a while, telling him how guilty I felt about always going away for marathons. With the financial industry in its current state, he’s working even crazier hours than normal during the week, as am I, so weekends are really our only time to truly relax and not have to worry about doing work at home or getting to sleep at a reasonable time. He’s really supportive of my marathoning goals, and I was pleasantly surprised when we went on a double date a few weeks ago and he wouldn’t shut up as he bragged about my running to the other couple (who probably couldn’t care less). He’s really proud of me, which is great, but I miss him when I’m away. We’re trying to plan a few trips together around my marathon schedule – he loves Vegas, so that’s a possibility in December (and it would be a fun way to make my first attempt at a drunk/hungover marathon), and he’s also talking about taking up running and doing the Country Music Marathon with me in Nashville in April. Life on the run was certainly easier when I was single, though I wouldn’t trade my relationship for anything πŸ™‚

At 6:00 PM, I tried to meet Sassy and her friends for dinner at a local Italian restaurant, but they wouldn’t take reservations, and the wait was about an hour. I wanted to get to bed really early, so I decided not to wait to eat with them, and instead headed to the race-sponsored pasta party. I sat with a few interesting people, but the food was pretty bland – if I’m going to eat “junk” food like pasta, I want it to be delicious! Disheartened, I spied a few trays of chocolate chunk cookies, and decided I’d try a bite. I assumed they’d be as bad as the pasta, and I knew one bite wouldn’t kill me… but surprisingly, they were delicious! I grabbed another and hit the road, munching as I went. Within 30 minutes, I felt horrible – sick to my stomach from overindulging on pasta, and also experiencing a growing feeling of dread as I realized that I had just eaten cookies the day before a race. Had I learned nothing from Seafair?? (This would be where I put a link to my Seafair race report, had I ever actually finished writing it. Suffice to say baked goods/sweets eaten the day before a marathon seem to make me very sick). I hoped that the GI problems at Seafair were more a result of the disgustingly hot weather rather than what I ate, but I had no way of knowing for sure.

Stopping at the drugstore to pick up a toothbrush (which I thought I had forgotten, but later found), I discovered that right next to toothbrushes and toothpaste on the shelves are the laxatives. I had never taken one before, but stood there for 10 minutes comparing brands and instructions and debating whether taking one would be the smartest move I could make or the dumbest. All but one promised to work within 6-12 hours, but it was 7:30 PM and the race was at 7 AM. They would need to work within 11 hours for it to solve my problem. The only other choice was a suppository which was supposed to work within 1 hour, but… ew. I was NOT going to try that. Using good judgment (I know, aren’t you shocked?), I decided not to take something I had never tried. When I got home (haven’t you learned by now that home means back to my hotel?), I decided I’d do a half hour of yoga to at least ease my stomachache, and hopefully make me digest a bit faster; however, laziness kicked in and that didn’t happen. So in my tummy the offending cookies stayed.

On race morning I woke up feeling fairly alert – a good thing. I made an extended bathroom trip and hoped for the best, then threw my stuff on and headed out. (You may have been admiring my good judgment before, but I’ll squash those thoughts by mentioning that I wore my brand new Brooks sneakers that I had gotten at Akron the week before.) I still felt reasonably full from the night before, so I decided to skip my usual race morning Lara Bar, opting to put it into my fuel belt instead. If I needed energy, I could certainly take it, but I didn’t want to eat it when I wasn’t hungry in case it brought back the stomachache of the night before.

Silly me, thinking I was good with directions, didn’t bother to bring a map because I was going to the same part of town where I was on Saturday; unfortunately, bridge closures led me to the wrong side of the river. My good directional skills did help me get back to where I needed to be, but it was now 6:20 and the race started at 7. I drove around for another 15 minutes looking for a parking spot – the race organizers had assured us that there was no need to pay for a parking garage because there was plenty of street parking – but there was actually none to be found. At 6:40, I sucked it up and paid the $6 (I was trying to be frugal, but I guess $6 isn’t bad) and headed to the start. I arrived with 10 minutes to go, and frantically searched for the bag drop, which was in a crowded location with little signage, and tons of volunteers who had no idea where it was. Fortunately, once I found it, it didn’t take long to leave my bag, and I headed for my appropriate corral. Queuing up the satellites on my Garmin, I then strapped on my iPod and decided to start with my “Boyfriend” playlist for inspiration – it’s all songs that he and I love, like that Nine Days song I posted in my Akron report. But when I tried to turn my iPod on, no dice! I couldn’t get it to show anything on the screen, and I angrily stuffed it and my new headphones into my fuel belt, glad that I had decided not to bring my cell phone so that I had room. It was my first race where iPods were not only allowed but encouraged, and me – the running-with-music addict – had nothing! I was glad that my headphones had broken at mile 10 in Akron, because it was kind of baby steps to running without music at all.

The first mile flew by, and I could swear it was only a minute or two until we were passing the one mile marker (Garmin says 8:32, for the record). The crowds were huge and loud, and there were two musical groups in the first mile alone! I found myself kind of glad that I was iPod-less for this course, because we had been promised lots of performers along the way so hopefully I would still be entertained. A light rain began falling, making me even happier that my iPod was tucked away safely. The drops were actually kind of nice, and I didn’t really feel like I was getting wet… at least, not yet.

We ran up a short hill and I met another Maniac who informed me that it was his fourth marathon on four consecutive weekends. And, judging by his number (everyone is assigned a number in the order that they joined), he was an even newer Maniac than I was. Cool! We passed each other back and forth for a few miles, until mile 5 when we formally introduced ourselves and decided to run together. Though Rodger had headphones on, he was still able to hold a conversation, and I thought, “now that’s how headphones should be used.” I really hate when people have their music cranked so loudly that they can’t hear anything around them – totally irresponsible. Anyway, within another mile or so, we found another Maniac to join our pair – Tom was an longtime Maniac with a number in the 400s (for reference, Rodger and I are in the 1000s), and he gave us a lot of advice on what was ahead in the course (this was his third Portland Marathon) and other good courses to consider.

At the aid station at mile 8, in addition to the Ultima, Gleukos, and water, there were volunteers handing out… gummy bears!!! I took a big handful and loved them πŸ™‚ However, in slowing to walk to chew, I lost Rodger and Tom, who were now a few hundred feet ahead. Instead of pushing my pace to try to keep up, I concentrated on staying on the left side of the road, so I could see the runners coming the opposite direction on the out-and-back section we were on. I cheered loudly for all the Maniacs I saw – and there were a lot of them! – and kept my eyes peeled for P.O.M. (whose projected finish time I couldn’t remember) and Chia, though I knew she planned to be further back than me. I reached the turnaround without seeing them, and started back with the same plan in mind.

Halfway through the second part of the out-and-back, I was starting to give up hope of seeing either Chia or POM. Just as I was about to despair, I spied a runner in pink camo running toward me and yelling “LAURA!” I screamed “CHE!” right back at her, and got a huge rush of adrenaline as I moved closer to the center to give her a high five. We never did get to meet up after the race, but I was thrilled just to see her partway through πŸ™‚

Shortly after seeing Chia, the out-and-back ended and we turned off into a more residential neighborhood. There were lots of people out to cheer us on, and as we passed a party of people drinking mimosas, I decided I wanted to try my hand at drinking on the run, especially with Vegas coming up. Remembering that someone had told me there was beer at mile 24, I decided that if I wasn’t on pace for a PR, I was going to partake. I chatted with a few runners around me who seemed close to my age, and I was impressed that they knew about Marathon du Medoc and wanted to participate someday – it’s been rare for me to meet younger people who are as into marathons as I am and fit some of the Maniac criteria like being able to recite details and dates of obscure races. Maybe I wasn’t as crazy as I thought!

Just then, I found gold! Liquid Gold, that is, an organic energy gel. It’s basically a form of honey, but it was the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted. I have no idea how I would package it to bring on my own runs, but the volunteers served it in little condiment cups like you’d get for ketchup at McDonalds, and I licked mine clean to get every last drop. So delicious!!! If you ever get the chance to try this stuff, I’d highly recommend it.

We turned out of the residential section and onto a long industrial road, where the rain began falling a bit harder. The road was flat, but there were enough small divots in the road that it was important to beware of the puddles. I crossed the halfway point at 1:58 and was still feeling good – was I really going to make a sub-4 time? If so, that would be incredible. I wolfed down my breakfast Lara Bar and kept running.

After the halfway point, we passed a strip club that had a big sign saying something like “Exotic dancers!” You could see the sign from about 1/4 mile away, and the funny part was that one of the musical groups had set up shop at this point. I think a lot of the male runners were speeding up to get there in hopes that the performing group would BE the exotic dancers πŸ™‚ Unfortunately for them, the performers turned out to be a group of octogenarians who were neither nude or nubile.

At mile 14, I got my first hint that something might go wrong, and felt the need to make a pitstop. I sternly told myself that this was not the time – I was on track for a PR and still feeling full of energy. The urge to stop went away, and I kept chugging away. Though I felt fully energized, I noticed that my mile splits were starting to get a bit slower, so I tried to pick up the pace.

Unfortunately, somewhere in mile 16, my stomach seized up again – much worse than before. I realized that if I did not make a pitstop immediately, I would be pitstopping all over the road. Fearing cameras, the jeers of other runners, and of course the utter humiliation of crapping your pants after the age of 3, I was relieved to see two portapotties just a few hundred yards ahead. With only one person seemingly in line, I was saved! My time would only gain a few minutes, and while I might not PR anymore, I could get pretty darn close.

I moved off to the side of the road and waited. Within a minute or two, one of the portapotties opened and the girl ahead of me went in. I was next! I danced on the side of the road with glee (okay, maybe not “with glee” so much as “with the need to keep those cookies inside me for just another minute or two to risk embarrassment”). And I waited. And waited. Several minutes later, the door to the second portapotty opened, and a (cute) guy walked out. Dressed in his army uniform similar to that of a group of spectators I had seen a few yards before the bathroom, he made my thoughts whir, but it wasn’t until I was already inside that I figured out the problem. He was a spectator! What the heck was he doing in the portapotty meant for runners at a pretty crucial point in the race?! It was too late to yell at him, but I was pretty pissed off. While discussing with Boyfriend later, he asked if there was a sign indicating that the portapotties were for runners only, and if it was possible that the guy didn’t know there was a race. I acknowledged that I didn’t see a sign, but since he was a spectator cheering on a friend, he was definitely aware that there was a race going on and that that’s why the portapotties were set up. What are your thoughts? Is it legitimate for spectators to use the course portapotties? To me, it’s akin to spectators taking the food and drinks at aid stations, which is a huge no-no, but Boyfriend’s reaction made me at least consider the possibility that the guy wasn’t a total asshole.

Speaking of assholes (did I really just make that tasteless transition? Yes, I did), I finished my business and headed off to try to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, the portapotties happened to be right at the foot of the one major hill in the course, so I was trying to ease my now-stiffened legs by running uphill. Not. Going. To. Happen. The hill really wasn’t that awful, and probably would have been okay had I not stopped – it reminded me of the hill to the Golden Gate Bridge where I PRed in the San Francisco Marathon – but without having momentum or motivation (my PR was long gone), I walked up it just like everyone else. Reaching the top and going over the St. John’s Bridge, I tried to pick up the pace, but the damage was done – I had stopped for a while, sat for a while, and walked for a while, and that combination just didn’t work for me.

The remaining miles were thoroughly a mental game – I kept trying to get up the energy to just power through and run, but I never got back that feeling of effortlessness and power that I had been graced with through mile 16. There were certainly a few points that were great – a group of cheereladers chanting something about a smile helping you get through the remaining miles, Sarah from Junk Miles recognizing me running by and cheering my actual name, a music group playing soothing music that was actually awesome even though it wasn’t heart pumping, and more of that Liquid Gold that I loved – but for the most part, I didn’t really enjoy miles 18-23. Those miles were also where the rain started coming down harder, making it a lot less fun.

I have a strange system for counting down the remaining miles of a marathon. That is, it’s not really a system so much as me changing how I count it depending on where I am in the race. In the first half, I count how many miles I’ve done, and occasionally how many miles I have left till the 1/4 mark and halfway mark (because those are where I fuel up with a gel or energy bar). In the second half, I sometimes count how many miles I’ve done, I sometimes count how many until I get more food, and I sometimes count how many until the end. However, my definition of the end varies quite a bit. Sometimes I count how many left till 26.2, sometimes I count how many left till 26 (because usually you can see the finish line at that point and it’s just one last sprint anyway), and sometimes I count how many till 25, because the last mile is usually pretty happy and I don’t really struggle with motivation there (most of the time at least). But when I say “sometimes,” I don’t mean it varies from race to race… I mean I count different ways at different moments in the race, depending on which number makes me feel most confident.

The problem with this variable approach is that it can get me stuck at one number for a while. Halfway through mile 20, I counted 4.5 miles until mile 25. Two minutes later, I counted 4.5 miles until mile 25.2, when I would have exactly one mile to the finish. Eight minutes later, I counted 4.5 miles until mile 26 when I’d be able to see the finish line. And then another two minutes later, I counted 4.5 miles until I crossed the finish line. Basically, this crazy counting resulted in me feeling like I had 4.5 miles to go for more than twelve minutes! Talk about feeling like I was making no progress at all…

Halfway through mile 23, we came upon the famed beer stop, sponsored by the local Hash House Harriers. Making their presence known with the call of “FREE BEER!”, they drew me in like a moth to a lamp, and I picked up the pace and headed toward them with open arms. One of the guys, seeing this, laughed a bit as he yelled “She looks like she wants a beer!!!” I nodded vigorously, and took four of the shot-sized cups of beer they offered down the line, tossing them back without even stopping. Preparation for Vegas, baby!

After the beer, I vowed to run almost the whole the rest of the way. I knew there was a hill leading up to the finish, so I figured maybe I’d walk up that, and then be able to really sprint the last 0.2 or whatever it ended up being after the hill. As we ran the last mile, I enjoyed the cheers of the crowd, and scowled at the annoying 5K participants who were walking three and four abreast, chatting away, and seemingly just out for a leisurely stroll. Come on, if you’re only doing 3 miles, at least run or powerwalk the darn thing! (No offense to any 5K walkers out there).

As I drew nearer and nearer to the finish, the cheering got louder, and people started telling us that we just had to make two turns and it was over. Heartened by this, I still didn’t pick up the pace, because I knew that taking a right turn meant going uphill, and I wanted to save some energy. However, when it came time to make the turn, I saw that we only needed to run one block in that direction, and the hill didn’t start until the block after, so it was still relatively flat. On that straightaway, there was crashing opera music playing that started to give me a bit of the runner’s high I had been missing without my iPod – it was triumphant and final, signaling the end of the race, and I was thrilled.


When we made the final left turn and saw the finish line ahead, I decided I didn’t want to be outsprinted like in Akron, so I poured it on. So did the guy next to me. Back and forth for the last 0.1, I would pull ahead happily only to have him pick up the pace and edge me out. When we crossed the line, it was totally spent, having given it everything we had in our race against each other. We weren’t sure who had beaten whom, but we gave each other a big sweaty hug and thanked each other for that final bit of inspiration. It didn’t matter who had come out ahead; we were both better for trying. (Note that the results show Andrew and I crossing at the same second, along with some other woman Maria that I didn’t see. If they had shown me a second ahead of him, it would certainly matter who came out ahead.)

Garmin says:
Mile Time HR Calories
1 0:08:32 150 bpm 68 C
2 0:08:45 157 bpm 97 C
3 0:09:58 158 bpm 88 C
4 0:08:55 151 bpm 100 C
5 0:08:25 154 bpm 96 C
6 0:09:08 158 bpm 90 C
7 0:09:13 161 bpm 96 C
8 0:08:46 160 bpm 96 C
9 0:09:12 162 bpm 101 C
10 0:09:06 162 bpm 102 C
11 0:09:17 162 bpm 103 C
12 0:09:49 164 bpm 96 C
13 0:08:46 164 bpm 95 C
14 0:09:53 159 bpm 96 C
15 0:09:20 162 bpm 97 C
16 0:09:32 161 bpm 99 C
17 0:17:14 138 bpm 81 C
18 0:10:25 149 bpm 94 C
19 0:10:05 152 bpm 101 C
20 0:10:17 151 bpm 99 C
21 0:10:44 152 bpm 101 C
22 0:10:23 148 bpm 93 C
23 0:10:51 141 bpm 98 C
24 0:12:00 140 bpm 88 C
25 0:09:29 154 bpm 87 C
26 0:10:06 155 bpm 92 C
26.36 0:03:36 160 bpm 35 C

That break at mile 17 killed me for the rest of it – all my times are MUCH slower afterward, and it’s not gradually like I was getting tired. However, do note that the mile after the beer was my fastest one on the second half of the course! So much for Frayed Laces’ plan to get all tapped out. From now on, it’s beer at every mile!

Next up – Hartford on Saturday. I’m starting to enjoy these weekly marathons πŸ™‚


18 thoughts on “Race Report: Portland Marathon”

  1. you are a bit crazy – but that’s awesome. Sorry ’bout the spectator in the port-a-potty. I agree with you – that’s crappy (hee) behaviour. Anyone who was anywhere near the course knew what was going on, and although the call of nature can happen at any time, it’s rude to use something not meant for you.

    That strip joint you passed? It’s Portland’s only VEGAN strip joint. Now that’s classy.

  2. Great race report! I liked the ahole transition. πŸ™‚ Whenever I see something annoying like that guy, I assume that he had an emergency too..hopefully people are respectful of the portapotties being for runners!

  3. Such a bummer we didn’t get to meet up – THIS TIME! Hopefully there will be a next.

    Your report is so detailed. Reading it helped remind me of a lot of things that I must have blocked out. I loved the girls drinking mimosas! That out and back sucked, as did the rain. I was afraid to try the Liquid Gold – I have a texture problem. I also remember the Strip Club. There was also a sign about “Ciggies” – I yelled out to the people next to me, “Screw this healthy running stuff, let’s go to the strip club and get wasted.”

    I was SOOOO excited to see the Opera singer. I sprinted like a mad woman from there.

    Great report. Thanks for the reminders πŸ™‚

  4. Loved the Portland race Report…I have not done that race yet. Trying to decide on a November marathon after 5 in the last 7 weeks. they certainly are addicting aren’t they ? All the bets with your running

  5. Great job on finishing another marathon!

    I love Nine days but I didn’t know they had new songs out. Which album is it – I can’t seem to find their new cd.

  6. I HAVE to run Marathon du Medoc someday. I intend on planning a whole vacation around going over there just to run that race!

    Sounds like you had a decent race day experience! You kept moving and got across the line. Awesome!

  7. PS – In response to some of your comments, yes, I LOVED all of those movies I had said I watched. I’d recommend any of them. Made of Honor was probably my fave of the three. And thanks for the comment about having read The Abs Diet. I think I might check into it.

  8. Cripes, I can’t keep up with all of your marathoning! Congratulations again! Really, has anyone even thought to analyze if beer is good during a race? The assumption is No. But maybe that’s a false assumption…

  9. Great race report Laura! Oddly enough, I completely missed the exotic dancers place LOL. I was really looking forward to seeing it too as it’s the only like vegan strip joint I’ve ever heard of. Read this if you get a minute – http://wweek.com/editorial/3413/10351/

    I really really really wish we could have gotten together. I want to take a NYC trip next late spring/summer sometime. If you can think of any races over there during that time that we could do, I would be super interested!

  10. I was there cheering along with Gazelle’s and Junk Miles…I just didn’t recognize you!

    I’ve been a lurker for awhile…I’ll be posting comments more…you’re hilarious!

    Only Portland would have a Vegan strip joint. Portland actually has a lot of strip joints.

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