Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Eugene Marathon Weekend: Race Day!

Marathon? Check! 

I had James set the hotel alarm clock for 5 am, and I also called the front desk to get a wakeup call. I always have to set multiple alarms because I'm afraid I'm going to over-sleep. I had a small panic attack at about 4:30 am thinking I had missed the race and I sprung out of bed. Once I realized the time I crawled back in to enjoy my last moments of rest. First off, those hotel beds were so damn comfortable so it was hard to get back out when the time came, but James also had the air conditioner on all night so the room was FREEZING! But when the alarm did go off I rolled out and quickly jumped in the shower. I have to go into races fresh, and lets face it my hair doesn't like to cooperate and I don't want to immortalized in race photos with total bedhead. So I showered, dried my hair, straightened it and put it up into a high pony then slipped into my race gear and ate my Picky Bar.

We left the hotel with about 35 minutes to get to the start line only a few miles away. My mom and sister arrived before us and directed us to an open parking lot a few blocks away. We parked and walked across the beautiful U of O campus. I had to go to the bathroom so bad and looked down at my watch, we had less than 10 minutes until start and I still had to find the port-a-potties. I was massively stressing because Mandie was with me but James and my mom had separated due to the little ones all walking at their own pace, I was freaking out worried that the race would start and I wouldn't have them next to me sending me into uncharted territory. I finally found some port-a-potties near the back of the corrals and bag check, upon walking closer I noticed there were only 2 and a
line at least 30 people long- forget that! I couldn't believe that there weren't more bathrooms. (Came to find out later there was whole port-a-potty village but it was closer to the start). I turned back around and headed to my corral. There were only corrals A-E, I was in D, second to last. My family lined up along the side to cheer me on and after just a few minutes the starting gun went off. Since I was so far back I didn't end up crossing the start line until 12 minutes after the first runners. Final waves, thumbs up and then I was off. Tears were completely blurring my vision and I was an emotional wreck wanting to cry "I'm doing this. I am running a marathon" was streaming over and over again in my head. I knew people were probably looking at me wondering if I was alright, I was sucking wind and we had barely even started.

The game plan orginially was to run the first mile to get out of the congestion of runners, then start taking my 3/1 intervals. I didn't watch my garmin continuoulsy or anything but everytime I did look down I was running in the mid 9's and it felt comfortable but I reminded myself to slow down at the start and I would allow my pace back into the low 10's. By the 5K mark I was at a 9:51 average (30:31) though, and hadn't taken any walk breaks. First walk break came at mile 4 shortly after I saw a mannequin on the sidelines dressed as a little boy- the boy who got killed in the Boston Marathon bombings to be exact. A picture of his face was glued on and he was wearing a baseball hat as pictured in the news. Lots of runners were dashing over to give the mannequin a kiss or touch it's shoulders, I passed by choking down sobs then slowed into a walk break to gather myself. The next few miles flew by, at the 10K mark I was at 9:54 avg pace (1:01:29), SWEET, all was going well and I felt strong. I needed to stay around an 11 minute mile, for easy math sake, to meet my goal of a sub-5 hour marathon so I was putting time in the bank. Around the 9 mile marker we came back towards the stadium and actually ran down the same street we started on. It was a little crazy we could see the super fast half marathoners finishing and heading into the stadium. In the past it would have been a little disheartening to run so close to the finish line and have so long left to run but I was so energized that I didn't mind it at all. I was actually excited to reach the point where the 2,000 of us marathoners split off from the 6,000 half marathoners because if you recall I started out this race having to use the bathroom and it was legit, not a nervous feeling, I really had to go and my bladder felt so heavy! Mile 10ish we split off, yay, and the next porta-potty stop had lots of vacancy signs, thank the lord! I dashed in, did my thing, dashed out and probably lost a minute, but felt so much better :)

It was strange to run along the bike paths next to the Willamette
because I covered a lot of the same ground, in the opposite direction though, when I ran the Eugene Womens Half with my sister in Sept 2011. It was less than 7 months after having Bailey (via C-section) and I remember hitting that same part of the trail at mile 10 and watching the 2:20 pacer pass me by. I felt miserable that race and Mandie had to pull me along (I finished in 2:25- my slowest half ever). Now I was in the middle of my marathon hitting the half way mark at 2:13:00 (10:10 avg) and feeling pretty good with some energy in reserve to "power" me through the remaining 13.1. At this point I looked at my pace band and noticed I was 22 minutes ahead of the 5 hour pacer.

Around mile 15 was when I first started to feel little twinges in my calves. I know it was lactic acid building up from my training run experiences. The only was I can describe it is a bubbly "pop rocks" type feeling in the calves. It wasn't terrible, I wouldn't even describe it as pain but I could feel it. I had decided to walk through the aid stations to still get my regular walk breaks without watching my watch. I was thrilled to look up and see one around the 16 mile mark. Volunteers were dressed as gorillas handing out bananas- loved it. I downed some gatorade AND water, ate some of my Larabar and continue on excited knowing that family would be somewhere between miles 16 and 17 waiting to cheer me on. I kept running, and running, and running and I didn't see my family. What the heck?!! I was starting to get irritated because I needed that does of adrenaline, I could feel myself starting to slow a little. I came up over a small hill at 18.6 miles and there they were. The first thing I saw were three beautiful little girls holding up bright pink signs. I stopped for a minute to say hi....tell my family my abs were KILLING me. I was really shocked
Not flattering by my abs hurt!

how bad they started hurting around mile 18. Running a marathon has to be the greatest ab workout ever. We took a quick picture and I was back on the run.

I found mile 20 at 3:31:47 (10:36 avg). I was slowly losing speed but still ECSTATIC to have run 20 miles at a 10:36 avg. I was feeling great cardio wise, my body was getting a little tired but not giving up on me yet. My very first half I stumbled light-headed across the finish line with a 10:46 avg pace- just goes to show how persistance pays off. It's taken me years but I AM improving!  The next 5 miles continued along the Willamette bike trails, a majority of it was shaded which was wonderful because the day was starting to warm up to the upper 60's, race start was 51 degrees, and the rise in temps was taking its affect on my pace as well. Most the people around me were now doing running/walking intervals...more walking than running. I would run in little chunks, still at a 10:10 avg pace but then I would walk a few minutes. My lead on the pacer was starting to dwindle, 12 minutes ahead with a few miles to go. My family was at mile 22 again, then the last 4 miles I was on my own. Miles 22-24 were probably the hardest for me. The end was both close and far all the same time. When I finally realized I was only about 1.5 miles away I started picking my pace back up and noticed those around me were
doing the same. I passed quite a few people that last 1.5 miles. A lot of people were limping or had really odd looking strides. I was reminding myself to keep my shoulders up cause I found myself hunching forward a little but other than that my form and stride felt the same as usual. No odd pains, no screaming muscles, I didn't even notice the pop rocks in my calves anymore, I just was slowly pressing on. I finally saw the .2 marker and was on the home stretch. I had 3 road kills in those final meters. I was finishing strong. That was the longest .2 miles EVER (I really think they might have placed the .2 marker a little early). Running into Hayward was an indescribable experience. I saw my family as I rounded the corner to go in, high five'd some strangers and then I was on the track. Historic Hayward Field. A track where legends have competed, where Olympic Trials have been held. It was amazing.

There weren't a ton of people in the stands but I still pulled my earbuds out so I could hear the cheers. I forgot to look up on the big screen to see myself finish, but finish I did. I completed my first marathon in 4:51:12, a sub-5 hour marathon, I met my goal. I can now call myself a marathoner, I'm part of the less than 1% of the US population that will ever run a marathon in their lifetime. I re-invented myself, from obsese to a runner doing 26.2 like it ain't no thing. Ok, maybe not quite like it ain't no thing, but still I did it. I DID IT.

My garmin read 26.43 miles so I joked with James that I'm
Free post-race pancakes!
automatically an ultra-marathoner for running over 26.2 miles. LOL. Overall this was a fantastic race. I can see why it is constantly listed as one of the top 10 marathons in Runners World. It's going to be on my list every year until I just can't run anymore- then I'll walk it :) It's Track Town USA for crying out loud!!! 


  1. Marissa I loved it! So excited for you. Loved reading it!

  2. Way to go! I live a few hours away from Eugene and hope to run my first half-marathon there.

    1. You should, it was a great race and fun city to spend the weekend in! Good luck, write me and let me know how you did if you run it next year- or say hi to me there :)