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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Race Report: Eugene Marathon

Maybe I'm just not meant to run marathons...

Yo, I'm back! Complete with a pasty,
pale complexion thanks to all those overcast, chilly Oregon days.

Because I'm a long-winded gal and there's soooooo much to talk about, I'm going to try to keep this post solely my Race Report. But, first, I do have to say one thing quickly about Oregon... it is seriously one of the most beautiful and genuinely friendly places I've ever been to. It was awesome. More on Oregon to come...

Now, to the good stuff... errr... I mean, the marathon.

Ahhhh… Eugene… a gorgeous little college town nestled amongst rolling hills and beautiful, rippling rivers (no, I didn’t steal that from their chamber of commerce website). Eugene is home to the University of Oregon and is also known as Track Town, USA. They call it track town, because University of Oregon is like the freaking mecca for runners. For one, Oregon’s former Coach, Bill Bowerman co-founded Nike and is almost singlehandedly responsible for making running a recreational thing. And Oregon is known for its really competitive and successful track program. This town knows and respects runners. It’s kind of weird but totally awesome. Like Running is a very big deal there. In the college bookstore there are literally 10-15 different types of t-shirts that have something to do with running… which explains why it took me like 20 minutes of milling around the store to figure out which shirts I was actually going to get.

Saturday, after a 2 mile loose run, my mom and I went to the expo and walked around Eugene and the University of Oregon’s Campus. The campus is absolutely gorgeous. Lusciously green with beautiful brick buildings and colorful flowers and shrubs. But, the most exciting part of the campus is of course… Hayward Field. Wow. It’s quite the spectacle for a track facility and it offered some good inspiration to be reminded of before the race the next day. I tried to take it easy on my feet that day…

I had a good dinner, drank a good amount of water, and got plenty of rest Saturday night. The race was all I could think of on Saturday. I had put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to fulfill my goal of a 4:20 finish time and I kept going over it in my head. I tried to mentally prepare myself for the pain and the boredom. I was ready though, I had trained better than I had before and now all that was left was 26.2 miles.

Sunday morning I got to the start line with about 3 minutes to spare, which actually worked out pretty well. The start line was narrow and absolutely PACKED with runners. My previous marathons had corrals and staggered starts and I guess I just assumed this one would, too. But it didn’t and the first mile was slow and frustrating.

I had decided to run with the 4:15 pace team for as much of the marathon as I possibly could, but when I got to the starting line… I couldn’t make my way back there, so I waited for the pacer to pass me. I saw her about a quarter of a mile into the race and I attempted to keep up with her, but she was zig-zagging all over the place to try and keep up with her pace and I lost her immediately. I wouldn’t see her again for about 14 miles. And just a minor critique of the race… the previous marathons I’ve ran had the pacers hold up a little sign that had their pace on it, so that you could see at a relatively far away distance where they were. The Eugene Pacers didn’t carry signs. They wore bright neon shirts with the time on their backs (but seriously… about 15% of the runners had on bright neon shirts, also… so it was REALLY hard to find the pacers).

I wore my ipod and had the nike attachment all set up. My plan was to run the first half of the race around 9:30/mile and then the last half of the race under 10:00/mile. My first mile was 10:10. Which surprised me and threw me off guard. I knew it was because of the massive amounts of people around me going slower, but I am used to having a fast first couple of miles from adrenaline, not a slow first mile. The first mile climbed and meandered through the campus a little and then out around the outskirts of town. There was excellent crowd support and the temperature was nice. The sun was peeping out and by about mile 2.5 I was able to toss the long sleeve tshirt (but, I should have just tied it around my waist). After the first mile, I ran wayyy too fast to try and make up the time. Miles 2-4 were 9:01, 8:43, and 8:43 respectively. Around mile 4 I caught myself thinking… umm… I’m just not loaded with energy. I immediately tried to shake the negativity and powered on. The next 5 miles were pretty good. I felt good, I was checking my pace every 4 minutes or so, which surprisingly helped the time go by faster and I breezed through those miles 5-10 at 9:44, 9:34, 9:28, 9:20, 9:33, and 9:38. Now, at this point… the half marathoners split from the marathoners and the marathoners ran through a very boring stretch. All I could think about was getting to the half mark and knowing that I was half way done. But, mentally… I was starting to struggle. I crossed the mat at the half marathon mark with a time of 2:05:32. I felt good about that, but mentally, I was having a really hard time.

We started to meander back through a park and it was like nature overload. I mean, just grass and trees to look at. I slowed after the half mark. I ran miles 14-16 at 10:10, 10:10, 10:16. It was about this point that my headphones got static-y and stopped working. Great. That’s all I freaking need at this point. My mind was already letting me down and now my technology was faltering as well. So much for checking my pace every 3-4 minutes. It was also at this point, that the 4:15 pacer passed me! For a moment, this pepped me up and I tried to keep up. You see… I wore my hydration belt, so I didn’t stop at any water station… I just ran right through them, so I think I must have been ahead of the pacer because of that (though I never remember passing her). I tried to keep up with the pacer, but I just couldn’t. And that folks… that depressed me. It was at that point when I started thinking… I’m not going to be able to finish in 4:20. By mile 18, it wasn’t just my head telling me I couldn’t do it… it was my body as well. My right knee started hurting and my calves started to cramp. It was also freezing cold. Along the river was windy and shady and I was so freaking cold. I started walking in mile 18 and from that moment on… I didn’t run a whole mile the rest of the way…. I had to walk/hobble/jog… repeat. It was disappointing, depressing, humbling, embarrassing. The last 10 miles of the race are through a park that runs along both sides of the river and while on one side… you could see the runners on the other side that were almost finished… while I still had miles and miles to go. Miles and miles to think about what happened. Why my mind and body were letting me down. Why this has happened 2 races in a row. This was different than Memphis. Because in Memphis… I had stomach issues and I hadn’t trained as hard. This was it… this was supposed to be my PR and it wasn’t going to happen. The last 2-3 miles I started to think to myself… maybe the marathon just isn’t my distance. Maybe I’m not meant to run marathons.

By the time I crossed the finish line at 5:15:26 I was completely heartbroken. And to help the situation… my mom comes running at me like a paramedic asking me if I was okay, what happened, she was worried, had people looking for me, etc… I was just like.. jesus.. thanks for further embarrassing me and making me feel even shittier. Awesome.

After the race, I was bummed. I texted my friends to let them know I had finished and most of them got the….”I don’t think the marathon is my distance” as my initial text.

I went over all my preparation and training in my head… I tried to figure out exactly what happened. Why did I hit the wall?

After about an hour of wallowing in self-loathing and disappointment I decided… you know what? Maybe the marathon really isn’t my distance. I mean, I think I could train for and really improve on my half marathon times. Half marathons are more fun and require less time for training.

Yeah, so the marathon just might not be my distance. But, you know what? I’m going to freaking make it my distance. I’m picking myself up and dusting myself off. I’m not going to be embarrassed or ashamed of my time. I’m just going to use it as a lesson that I just need to train harder next time. Maybe, (as much as I hate to) I need to use gels during the race, maybe I need to run my long runs without my ipod and all alone, and I definitely need to bump up my mpw significantly, etc… There is so much that I can do to improve and I will. The marathon will not beat me. Eventually… I will beat the marathon. And it will cry. I will beat the marathon into submission so badly that it will cry like a little baby... like a bratty little toddler (okay, okay, you get the idea). And when I do… it will be all the more sweeter.

So, watch your back, Marathon... I've got my eye on you. That means you Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon!

5 comments:

John P. McCann said...

Amy,

Tackle another one, that's the spirit!

Way to show heart.

There's a book that helped my mental preparation called, "Running Within." http://www.amazon.com/Running-Within-Mastering-Body-Mind-Spirit-Connection/dp/0880118326

I look forward to reading your report when you nail Chickamauga in November.

April said...

You've run 3 marathons...and you've got another planned! Just think about that. Just think about what an achievement RUNNING A MARATHON is! Not a whole lot of people can say that they have the guts to even try. The marathon IS your distance and I'm proud of you.

Dana said...

I agree w/ April. Marathons will become YOUR b!tch by the time you train for the next one!

angie said...

Ditto April. Isn't it one-half of one percent who have even run ANY marathon?!?

I've got my first one coming up in 3 weeks, and believe me, this turtle would KILL for 5-anything..... You have been a great source of info and encouragement to me as I've struggled through this training.

You should be very proud of yourself!

Chris said...

Amy,

Hey, don't sweat it, girl. Marathons are like people; each one is different. No better, no worse, just different.

Being a marathoner that has been where you are, I can tell you that the biggest piece of advice (not really) that I can offer you is to find the right training plan. That's the entire deal. Wins and losses on race day all fall back to the training plan. If you find the right one, follow it exactly, then race day is just a formality.

I highly recommend that you look into the Hanson's SOS (Something of Substance) plan. You can get it at their site www.hansons-running.com. It has turned my running into a completely different animal. I had trained hard before, but not smart. Their plan has brought my running to places I never even KNEW.

Good luck, Amy. You've got the heart to do it. Just let it all hang out.

Chris