This morning I ran a gnarly gnarly trail marathon. This evening I ate my weight in the best of Portland pizza, demolished an old fashioned glazed donut and several (six) Newman’s Ginger-O’s. Now I am sitting here with a happy belly, sore legs and a glass of red wine. For these reasons I feel that I’m adequately prepared to write this epic race report. Let the report begin!
Note: OK, so maybe you won’t sit through this entire race report, but you really should because I placed SECOND PLACE in the womens’ marathon and generally I really kicked ass. Here’s how the race went down:
But first, did you know that today’s race was my eighth marathon, and for many reasons (broken bones and stress fractures and a new job) my nervousness was near-overwhelming. I about scratched the race yesterday morning. But when my boss said on Friday, “hey, good luck at the race tomorrow” I knew that I couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t back out.
Backstory: It’s been over a year since I ran my last marathon -thirteen months to be exact. My last marathon was a major victory at the Eugene Marathon where I placed third. Since then I’ve been hit by cars, twice, survived unemployment, landed a dream job as a producer at a dreamy interactive design studio. If that wasn’t enough, I also moved to a new apartment last week. It’s been a hectic year. In critical moments of stress Running has been shoved to the back burner. Running was none too pleased that our relationship had been downgraded to “friends” that sometimes “hooked up”. I felt bad about it too, I missed Running and without a race to train for it was difficult to maintain a running schedule.
Fast forward: Today’s marathon was a litmus test; I was interested to see where I stood in my training and get a gauge of how it felt to run a marathon after such a long hiatus. I chose the Timberline Marathon because A) it’s close to Portland B) it’s a trail marathon and C) I heard the medals were cool.
4:07 AM: The alarm goes off, I kick my leg out from under the covers and announce. “Legs, you know! It’s race day. ” OH NO!!!” The Legs replied. I shuffle out to the bathroom, take a shower, shave my legs, pack my bags and ready my things. I am too nervous to eat my usual breakfast of sardines. Of course I should have eaten them. Sardines are the perfect pre-race food.
5:15 AM: My race support/cheerleaders crowd consist of a gentleman who likes to ride bikes and a his seven-year old daughter. Both are very sleepy but somehow still excited about sharing the day with me. We drive out to the Mt. Hood Forest where today’s race will be held.
8:15 AM: We arrived at the race start. I picked up my number, attached my timing chip and slathered myself with Body Glide. The race is just about to begin.
Start: The race is downhill from the start which gives me an ill-founded sense of optimism. I feel like I could run all day, and all night. I charge down the hill and wonder, “Why does everyone think that marathons are soo hard?”. I remember that while the first 2 miles may seem great, marathons can be very long and very, very ugly. Hang tight, Heather, we’ll see how you feel in mile 22.
Miles 1 – 3: There are very few marathoners in the race this morning; maybe 50 or so. The marathon course loops twice around Timothy Lake. The trail is in good shape and it feels so fast. I’m flying, literally prancing over rocks- I realize I’m running way too fast, but what can you do when you feel fantastic, the sun is shinning and your legs feel so perky? I try to slow down, really I do. But it’s a lost cause. I’m just too damn eager.
Miles 4 – 13: An ultra runner from Utah joins me for much of the first loop. He’s training for the the Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Race (Hardcore Alert!). We chat for much of the first loop of the lake. We admire the scenery, which is breathtaking. We talk about endurance running. We laugh about the lack of crowds. Somehow the minutes click by and I don’t even notice. I feel spectacular. My pace is still perky, perky perky. Somewhere near the end of the first loop of the lake I pass a girl runner. Soon after I pass one of the few marathon spectators who announces “Heyyyy! Looking good. Second Place Woman” and then laughed and said to Mr. Utah Runner “I mean… you’re doing good too.”
Second Loop, Mile 13 -16: I pass the sign that notifies us that we’ve made one full loop of the lake. I let out of a whoop and yell to Mr. Utah ” Woo hoo. Only one more lap to go!” We run together and begin to pass half marathoners. Seeing a bunch of new runners give me a burst of energy. I pass handfuls of runners and in the back of my mind I think that I’m still going way too fast.
Mile 16: Let me specify that there were no mile markers on the course. I relied on my finicky, temperamental Garmin 405 named Phil. His calculations aren’t always that precise.
O.K. quick aside: Some people talk about marathons and they’ll say something like “I felt great until Mile 22, and that’s when everything fell apart” Really? Really, you felt great until mile 22? That is NOT my marathon experience at all. I do not suddenly hit a wall, nor do I suddenly run out of leg-moving juice. Instead I feel a ragged, energy-sucking pain. That pain begins at mile 3 and that pain ebbs and flows throughout the entire race. I spend the majority of my time trying to figure out different ways to minimize, manage and conceal the pain from the rest of my body.
Mile 18: The second loop is feeling significantly slower and significantly longer than the last but my watch tells me I’m still maintaining a perky-ish pace. I pass half-marathoners here and there but mostly I run by myself. It seems like the miles are trickling by. About this time I also start to burp, my mouth is filled with an acidic vomity taste. My arms ache from carrying the water bottle. My fingers are sticky from GU. I pass an aid station and one of the volunteers asked, “You doing O.K.?” and I give a feeble thumbs up in response. I spend the next mile thinking of all the witty things I could say to him about being tired but not dead. About mile 18 I also start my Marathon Mental Odometer. After mile 18 I split the remaining distance into four units of 2 miles. At mile 18 I convince myself I only have 2 miles to go. At mile 20 I re-set my mental odometer to zero and tell myself I only have 2 miles to go and so on until I reach the finish line.
Mile 19.3: I feel hollow, achy and queasy.
Mile 20: More queasiness. I really shouldn’t have skipped breakfast. I’ve been hungry since I started and now I just feel pathetic. Six miles is an awful long way to go.
Mile 21: A fisherman whom I’d passed in the first loop is still there. On the first loop he had cast me one of those looks that said “You crazy, girl!” and I said to him. “We could switch places if you want.” He scoffed and went back to fishing. When I passed him during the second loop he cast a second glance and I said, “You know, it’s more fun the second time around.” Somehow, I don’t think he believed me.
Mile 22: Barf in my mouth. It tastes like Espresso GU
Mile 23: I am still not at the finish line, much to the disappointment of my legs
Mile 24: I want to quit but that would be ridiculous I’m the second place woman and if I have to crawl my way to the finish line I will.
Mile 25: All uphill.
Finish: I sprint awkwardly and painfully to the finish. I dry heave, spit and start to bawl. I am exhausted but oh so happy. I’ve finished second in the marathon.
Time : 3:48
2nd place woman