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Portland Marathon 2016 Race Recap

Portland Marathon 2016 Race Recap
Portland Marathon 2016 Race Recap

I can’t believe it. I ran my second marathon last week in Portland. 

The marathon still seems a little like it didn’t happen. I have never pushed myself so hard before nor have I been in such pain. It was quite the race to say the least and I am so proud of what of I accomplished. Let’s start from the beginning.

Pre-Race and Race Expo

I left Vancouver early Saturday morning and took the train to Portland with my running buddy and his girlfriend. 8 hours later we arrived in Portland. We dropped off our bags and headed to the Portland Marathon Race Expo. Package pickup was quick and easy and the volunteers were friendly.

We spent 20 minutes wandering the relatively small race expo. I thought it was OK but nothing special! I left with 2 containers of Nuun, a free pair of socks from the local running store, and a free local apple.

Amtrak Train Seattle

One of my best friends Hilary was flying into Portland from Toronto that evening, so I was on my own for dinner. I was getting increasingly nervous throughout the day and by Saturday night I was really starting to freak out about the marathon. My final week of tapering was not great and I was terrified my body may give up on me halfway through the marathon.

Whole Foods is always an excellent distraction. Off I went to wander the aisles and have dinner at the hot bar. I caught a cab back to my hotel and it turned out to be an interesting experience! I told the cab driver I was in Portland for the marathon and he freaked out. When I got out of the car, he asked for a selfie with me. I felt like a celebrity! Then he put his arm around me and said a very long prayer. I’ll take any encouragement I can get!

I spent the rest of the evening relaxing, foam rolling, and rolling out with the lacrosse ball. My Dad also gave me a call to calm me down. Hilary arrived at the hotel and I went to bed shortly after 9:30 pm.

Marathon Race Gear

Morning of the Race

I woke up at 5 am after a restless night’s sleep. I couldn’t figure out the hotel room coffee machine so this was my first race ever run without caffeine. Although I am sure I had enough adrenaline and nerves to more than make up for the lack of caffeine. Before I left Vancouver, I made a batch of my favourite grain-free porridge to eat on race morning and I am so glad I did. I did a quick dynamic warm-up and then it was time to walk to the start line.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for race day changed drastically from earlier in the week. There was a wind and rainfall warning on Sunday, just what you want to run a marathon in. Luckily our walk to the start line wasn’t too cold and the rain hadn’t picked up yet.

I found my corral and ran into another runner from my marathon clinic. Having someone familiar to talk to somewhat calmed my nerves. We spent ages waiting for the bathroom. The lineups were huge and we almost missed the start!

Portland Food Carts

Portland’s food carts on a much sunnier day than race day

Race Recap

Miles 1-3

I made my way to the middle of my corral. Everyone sang the US national anthem and a few minutes later we were off. I ran the first 3 miles without headphones. It was a good way to calm my nerves, get into a rhythm, and soak in the on-course entertainment. We ran through Chinatown and did an out-and-back along Naito Parkway. Hilary was cheering around mile 3. It was great encouragement to see a friend early in the race!

According to my Garmin my 5 km split was 27 minutes (8:45 pace). I hit the race 5 km marker 5 minutes later. I shouted out to Hilary what was going on so she could tell my parents! From then on, every single mile marker was 0.4-0.5 miles off. This would be very discouraging later in the race!

Miles 4-6 

I was feeling good and my legs felt strong. I was so happy my piriformis muscle hadn’t seized up like I feared. My 10 km split was 53 minutes. The rain was picking up but I didn’t notice it too much. At mile 6, I took my first Vega gel. I accidentally grabbed an electrolyte drink from the aid station instead of water. Who knows if the drink was the cause, but minutes later I had a terrible cramp in my left side. All I could think was please don’t let this ruin my race. I did my best to focus my energy elsewhere and remembered all the other times I have felt terrible one mile and better than next.

Miles 7-13

By mile 7, I was back to feeling good! Cramp be gone. I was also really hot and the rain was a light drizzle so I threw away my hat! Of course it began to pour later on in the race and I regretted that decision.

At this point I also decided to start taking walk breaks. In my marathon clinic we did 10 and 1s (run 10 minutes + walk 1 minute) during our long runs. I run half marathons walking the water stations and I did my first marathon with no structured walk breaks but that fell apart into a lot of walk breaks.

I didn’t want to try anything new on race day and I was already freaked out about my body failing me during the race so walk breaks won! I doubt I will do this again. It was nice to walk up hills and have the mental crutch of walking but it became so hard to start running again after each break. You also have to run faster to make up for the walk breaks.

I don’t remember much of the course but I do remember pirates handing out Mardi Gras beads and people blowing huge bubbles. I hit the halfway mark with a 13 mile split of 1:55. Amazing to think in November 2015 I ran my first half-marathon and hitting 1:58 was such a struggle! I thought I was going to die running that fast.

Portland Hawthorne Street Bridge

Portland’s Hawthorne Street Bridge later in the week

Miles 14-20

I took my second gel at the 2-hour mark and continued to drink water at every aid station. At mile 17 there was a steady climb up NW Bridge Avenue then up and over St. John’s Bridge. The only thing that kept me from walking up that long hill was recalling the 8 weeks of hill repeats we did with my marathon clinic. I did not get through those workouts to walk now! The mile markers were still 0.4-0.5 miles behind my watch yet I remained optimistic that they would somehow catch up with my watch before mile 26.

Miles 20-23

A big shout-out to Hilary who rode the bus to find me at different spots on the course! I saw her again at mile 21 and this is when I was really starting to hurt. She hilariously yelled at me to stop walking and keep going. I took a gel at the 3-hour mark and would later realize that was my last one. A foolish mistake! I am pretty sure I bonked in the final miles.

Downtown Portland Streets

Revisiting the Portland Marathon course later in the week

Mile 23-26.7

I don’t remember much about the final few miles but I do know I have never felt so much pain. Everything hurt! I just wanted it to be over. It took everything I had to keep moving forward.

What kept me going? My friends and family who believed I could do it. I did not want to disappoint anyone. I also trusted in my training and did not want to feel like my 4 months of training had been a waste. Most importantly I wanted to finish the race knowing I gave it my all and that I was working as hard as I could with every mile. I didn’t want to feel the way I did after my first marathon – like I could have tried harder. Before I began the marathon, I wrote “no regrets” and “be brave” on my hand. It felt cheesy at the time but it helped me immensely! Having a visual reminder was a huge help near the end.

I held out hope until the very end of the marathon that we wouldn’t have to run an extra 0.5 miles. Oh no we did! The last 0.5 miles of the race were brutal. It took forever for that finish line to appear!

I finished the marathon in 4 hours and 2 minutes, an 8 minute PB. 

I don’t remember much about crossing the finish line. I almost passed out! Oops. Thank you to the kind volunteers who helped me out! I ate a banana, Twizzlers, and orange slices. 10 minutes later I was starting to feel a bit better but then the pain set in everywhere! I don’t remember feeling this terrible after my first marathon, all I wanted to do was sit down.

Portland Marathon Finish

Post-Race

I called my parents and found Hilary. We went to the local running store where I proceeded to spill their free coffee everywhere and found a spot to sit. I have no idea how long we were there for but it was awhile! Several hours later I had a fantastic celebratory brunch followed by post-race drinks with my marathon clinic friends.

I later found out several corrals ran the wrong route during the 5 km of the marathon. It is unclear how this happened but this is why all of the mile markers were off. Several days after the marathon, my time was corrected to reflect the extra distance.

I went into the race with loose time goals of sub-4 hour and 3:50. Given the poor conditions, my inadequate fuelling, and the extra distance we ran I think I was in sub-4 hour shape. You never know what will happen race day! I feel good about the race and am amazed by how far we can push our bodies.

Running a marathon has forced me to think, dream and live bigger. We don’t know what we’re capable of until we try.

I am so proud of how much I pushed through on race day and know I worked hard for that 8 minute PB. Right after the race I told everyone I could never put my body through that much pain again. Now a week later, I want to get faster! Sign me up for spring marathon training.

Thank you for all your encouraging words throughout training and leading up to the race. It is much appreciated and was a great help during the race. 

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