|Okay, this is one of the dumbest finish line photos ever. I was trying to honor Boston and break the tape after running 26.2 miles. Glad I didn't fall over doing that move! Photos by Kelly Barten.|
|No wait. This one's worse. Second Place finisher did start to fall down and was put in a wheelchair. That's giving it everything you have!|
The Guard Register did a nice post-race write up that you can find here.
Eugene is a great place to run and race. I have run the Eugene Marathon twice before, so I knew what the course looked like and what to expect. This time, the race finished in Hayward Field rather than Autzen Stadium where it had both times I ran it before, and I was really looking forward to that. The thought of possibly breaking the tape while running down that track to the finish seemed a little too good to be true.
If you read my Marathon Eve post, then you know that I wasn't terribly confident heading into the race. My goal all along was to win, but I also knew that depended heavily on who showed up to race. The Elite Coordinator sent a message to the elite athletes last week, and I noticed a lot of very fast women on the list. I will admit that I was intimidated. Even more intimidating was actually seeing these young, fit competitors in the elite tent the morning of the race.
Race weather was absolutely perfect: mid-50s and overcast at the start and little to no wind. I ate my normal pre-race meal and felt pretty decent. I milled around in the elite tent and did an uncharacteristic little warm up (hip flexibility exercises, light jogging, a few drills) about 30 minutes before. I did this mostly because I needed to burn off a little energy. I was never anxious or nervous before the race. In fact, I was a little worried that I would have a hard time getting into the race simply because I didn't feel much of anything beforehand. As we headed to the start line, I realized I needed to pee. It felt kind of urgent, but I usually feel that way right before the race and my body resorbs the excess fluids somehow. Unfortunately for me and another girl with the same need, there were no facilities close enough to the start to relieve ourselves so we both just held it in.
We assembled for the start and listened to a poignant message from Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce who reminded us to cross our hands over our hearts as we crossed the finish line in support of the Boston victims. I made a mental note of that.
And then we were off. This race starts both the half and marathon runners together. I found out that it is very easy to get drawn out by the speedy half marathoners and impossible to know where you rank in the marathon with everyone mixed together until the two races split at about the 10 mile mark. My race plan was to start out at 6:30 pace for the first 10 miles. That was the pace I felt I could definitely hold for this race based on my training. I would then try to pick it up the next 10 and hold my shit together for the last 10k.
Well, I started a little hot that first 10 miles mostly due to finding a couple of great groups to pace off of. I also felt fantastic at the pace we were doing. The only real hills in the race come during that first 10 miles, so my paces were slightly erratic, but I averaged around 6:18-6:19 for that first part. As soon as the race split, I saw all of my speedster pacers head off in the direction of the half finish line and I was headed out to the Willamette River for the scenic tour.
It became clear to me within the first couple of miles after the split that I was the first woman because people were telling me that. It's always hard to know exactly, because you don't know whether people are really paying attention. Then, right before the 1/2 marathon point, a man who I could tell was paying attention, rode up on his bike and told me that the second place woman was right behind me. She had me in her sites and she was a strong runner. He also told me there was a chase pack behind her, but they were not a threat "unless I decided to run back towards them". I guess I must have looked strong too.
And I was feeling very strong at that point. I was just concentrating on keeping each mile faster than 6:30 pace. I am not sure why my chip didn't register at the half and 20 mile stations, but I did look at the clock at the half and it read 1:23:05. Now I know that second place was only 10-15 seconds behind me at that point! Even without that information, I had no reason to doubt that she was right behind me. I tried to just concentrate on running my race. I admit I was running scared the entire second half knowing I would probably slow down and just waiting for her to catch me.
Around mile 18 or 19, I realized that my body had not resorbed my excess fluid and I really had to go pee. It was getting very uncomfortable. I could pull a Paula Radcliffe and slip off to the side for a quick one, but I didn't want to give up any time with speedy on my tail. There was a nice stretch on the trail where there were no spectators or other runners (that I could see) and I just let go. It was gross and a bit humiliating, but I felt so much better afterward even with my soggy shorts, socks and shoes! I was shocked at how much I really had to go! This turned out to be a very smart decision. Had I pulled off to go pee, I almost certainly would have given up my lead and possibly lost the race. Judge if you will, but I'll take the win any day of the week.
Everything dried out quickly, and I felt much better for the next few miles. The race then headed up and over the River to make its way back to Hayward. I was still concentrating on holding my pace under 6:30, but that became increasingly difficult as I got past 20 miles. My paces slipped into the high 6:30s and then hovered around 6:40-6:45 for the last few miles before I turned onto the streets of Eugene headed back to Hayward Field. Those last few miles were torturous. There were very few runners ahead of me, and with the winding trail, I would go for 5-10 minutes without seeing anyone. There were few if any spectators on that stretch except for some very cheerful volunteers at the water stations. I was gulping water by this point. I really don't know why I was so thirsty, but I couldn't get enough water.
I knew I was fading in those last few miles and my legs were just dead. For whatever reason, all I could think to tell myself was, "this is your race to lose." What does that even mean? I had nothing left to give at that point should my nemesis have somehow managed to catch me. The couple of guys that did catch me gave me a good scare. I finally realized I was going to win the race when I rounded the turn to enter Hayward and heard the crowd going nuts. I heard my name announced shortly after that and saw the banner being held for me to break. I barely had time to wrap my brain around what was happening but somehow got my hand to my heart and managed to stay upright across the line. Wow.
I was immediately greeted by the elite coordinator, Ken, who congratulated me and got me some water. I then talked with a few reporters and was finally able to find the Genius beyond the finish line holding area. He had finished in 2:43 and was not allowed to stick around to watch. He didn't even know I had won!
I promised a friend I would post my fueling strategy for this race. It has remained pretty much unchanged for the past 15 marathons I've done. I take one gel with a little water (Gu Roctane blueberry pomegranate flavor) about 15 minutes before the race starts and then one every 5 miles (miles 5.5, 10, 16 and 21 in this race) always with a cup of water at a water station. I plan this out ahead of time based on where the water stations are and never mix sports drinks with the gel. I like being self sufficient and not having to rely on elite fluids. This recipe has worked perfectly for me year after year. Hope that helps!
I had a beer post race with the Genius and then got a bottle of wine and 5-lb bag of Krusteaz Pancake Mix as a prize. I'm supposed to get a year's supply of pancake mix, though I don't know how many 5-lb bags that equals. I got a quick massage which I think really helped to work out the kinks in my calf muscles. Overall, I felt great during the race with only a few twinges in my right hip flexor and gluteal muscles. Nothing that a little lacrosse ball action can't hammer out! My shoes definitely need washing!
The Genius and I drove and ate our way home that afternoon. We had huge burgers in Eugene and then two over-sized meals with two big milkshakes for dinner at a Black Bear Diner.
I am finally letting the glory of this experience sink in. It still seems like it happened to someone else, but I keep seeing my face in that photo. I guess this 45-year-old mother of 5 (cats and dogs) did just kick all those young girls' butts all over Eugene, didn't she? Feels kind of good.