26.2 Miles to Victory!

2011 PDX Marathon Finisher Shirt

I got me one of these!!

I did it! Sunday October 9th I ran in the 40th annual Portland Marathon, and I finished in 3 hours and 32 minutes: A wonderful time for a first marathon if I do say so myself. Things went far from perfectly, but it was a resounding success any way I look at it.   The whole story of the weekend is below the break.

The weekend of the marathon was a crazy one.  Friday night, my show Vengeance at Sundown opened so Alysha and I were up fairly late thanks to the cast party.  Saturday morning I went on a 2 mile run, as most marathon training plans I’d looked at indicated to not have it be a total rest day.  After months of Saturday being my “Long Run” day, it felt very strange going for such a short run, it was like it was done before it had even started.  Despite being comically short, my last training run was great, my legs felt well rested from the taper and it was a beautiful surprisingly summer-like fall day.

Since it was opening weekend for my show, my Dad came to town to see the show Saturday and treated me to dinner at Ivar’s. In retrospect, I probably should have eaten something higher in carbs and lower in fat than Fish n’ Chips and Clam Chowder, but it was a delicious meal.  After the dinner it was time for my show…that’s right, I had a performance the night before the marathon.  I was feeling some nerves about the race throughout the show, wondering how much sleep I’d get, whether I tapered too much, or too little.  The show ended around 9:40 or so and I rushed out to the car.  Alysha was kind enough to drive and let me get some sleep in the car, if she hadn’t done that there is no way I could have succeeded the way I did Sunday.  I slept maybe 2 hours in the car and we got into Portland around 1 am.  By the time we’d checked in, showered the fake blood out of my hair and climbed in bed it was 2:00.   I slept better in the car than I did that night.  On top of my nervous energy, our room was too hot and faced a busy road so I just kept waking up over and over from the noise.

When my alarm went off at 5:15 am I had no problem getting up, my body was filled with energy even though I should have been exhausted from my 5 hours of fitful sleep.  We walked down to the nearest MAX Light Rail station where 20 or so other runners were already waiting to hop on and get downtown.   The train arrived and it was packed… I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get on but everyone stuffed in like sardines, I’ve never been on a more crowded piece of public transportation. Thank goodness it was before the race and not after or it would’ve been a very stinky 4 stop journey.  We got off and made our way to the Hilton to meet Alysha’s friend Tory (an accomplished marathon runner herself with 64 marathons under her belt) who had picked up my race packet for me since we couldn’t get to town until so late the night before. Next thing I knew I was standing with the other B group runners, waiting to start.  We got some motivation from an Olympic Gold Medalist in Marathon from the 70’s or 80’s (I can’t remember his name, nor find it online), sang the National Anthem, and before I knew it we were off!

I started running with the 3:25 pace group even though I’d told the race I was shooting for 3:30, but quickly worked my way ahead. I would eventually learn this was not the best choice I ever made, but it felt good at the time.  As we cruised along I hit every aid station, making sure to gulp down some of the disgusting electrolyte drink the race was providing, Ultima Replenisher.

Ultima Replenisher is a balanced electrolyte drink that does not contain artificial ingredients or sugar and goes well with gels and other carb sources. The advantage of Ultima when running is the minimal processed carb formula allows for rapid absorption of the electrolytes, without stomach upset. The electrolytes, which are minerals such as calcium and magnesium, allow us to maintain our oxygen utilization and energy. Source

It did the job, but it was absolutely unpalatable.

The course was beautiful and I kept my high pace for the majority of the route, first weaving through downtown, then shooting down 4 miles down NW Front ave through an area of cool looking warehouses and industrial buildings. We hit a turnaround and about 2 or three minutes after the turnaround I passed the 3:25 group going the other way! I was 5 minutes or more ahead of them and at least 10 minutes ahead of my goal! I knew I should slow down a bit or I was going to hit the wall and hit it hard. I slowed down , trying to avoid passing people but still crossed the halfway point in 1:40:59 on pace for 3:21.

St John's Bridge

The Beautiful St. John's Bridge near Mile 17

After the halfway point we headed out through a fairly rural area along St. Helens Rd. getting occasional great views of the Willamette River.  I continued feeling awesome as we climbed the hill to St John’s Bridge at mile 17, passing people on my way up the hill and across the bridge savoring the beautiful view of the city up the river.  I stayed on my awesome pace until after mile 22, and then BAM! I hit the proverbial wall.  I had to stop and stretch a bit, my legs suddenly felt like achy jello… I’d over shot, dang it.

I wasn’t going to let that stop me though.  Over the next 4 miles I averaged a pace of  over 11 minutes a mile, what with having to stop to stretch repeatedly and having to walk on and off.  I watched the 3:25 group pass me by, then the 3:30.  I felt miserable , but I was so close, I couldn’t stop.  Fellow runners encouraged me, giving me the mental boosts I needed to keep from walking for too long. Finally, as I came down the Broadway Bridge heading into the last mile an a half I decided I was going to run this out,  I was going to finish on my terms.  I did it.  I pushed myself again through that last bit, legs burning with the effort.  I made up ground I had lost since mile 22, passing people who had passed me as I willed myself to the finish.  It is near impossible to describe the joy I felt crossing that finish line on my terms, running my heart out rather than limping across.

Immediately after crossing the finish line we were given our Space Blanket to keep us from catching a chill, and our finisher medal.  We were then corralled over to the smorgasbord of food for finishers.  I was starving but didn’t want to over eat so grabbed some fruit, some yogurt and a bag of chips and scarfed that down as I picked up my finisher shirt and commemorative coin.   I started wondering when I’d get to the area where I could meet up with Alysha, I was ready to give her a sweaty victory hug, but first I had to get in line for my Finisher Photo.

Right in front of me in line was a couple who had ran the race together, they got up for their pic and he got down on one knee.  She said yes.  How nervous must he have been, running a marathon knowing he was going to propose when it got done? I headed up for my finisher photo.  Finally I got to meet up with Alysha, and she took some wonderful victory photos:

I’ll follow up this weekend with a post about the lessons I learned and what I’m going to do as I train for Marathon Number 2 , the Yakima River Canyon Marathon!

(Had to do some pics as links since the direct pictures aren’t available unless I pay $60. Here’s the whole RacePhotos.net site)

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3 responses to “26.2 Miles to Victory!

  1. Awesome, congrats!

    Strong time for the firs time!

    I’m working towards my first marathon, hoping I can do as well as you. Thanks for the story.

  2. Pingback: Running is Good for the Heart… | Geb Brown

  3. Pingback: Building a Base, and Planning a Plan | Geb Brown

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