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Race Report – Eugene Marathon 2010

I successfully finished my first marathon. I feel like I’ve learned so much by training for and running Eugene. It’s been so useful to learn what works for me and what doesn’t and what to do differently next time. The race itself was incredibly gorgeous, well-staffed, and had great crowd support. I honestly can’t think of a better race to have picked for my first marathon.

Apologies for the long post! I did my best to get this all written down so I can learn from the experience for the next one…

The race start time was 7 AM. We got there in plenty of time. My hosts (BR+AQ) lived just 3 miles from the starting line, and none of the roads between their place and Hayward Field were closed. So no fussing with shuttles and stuff. I got up at 5 AM, made my toast and peanut butter and coffee, drank a ton of water, and we headed out at 6.

We got to the start around 6:15. After a few quick strolls around, J and I joined the bathroom queue, where we remained for the next 35 minutes. By the time I made it through the line and got in my corral, it was impossible to even see the 4:30:00 pacer. There wasn’t even any space to squeeze in to the 10:30/mi corral. Ooof.

My original plan had been to stick with the 4:30:00 pacer for the first half of the race, then reassess how I felt. My training plan claims I could do a 4:25:00 race, so I thought this would be a good plan. But not being able to find the pacer threw this plan out the window right away.

For the first few miles I was right behind a military-looking guy who was hitting *exactly* 10:05 miles (my goal pace). So I followed him for a few miles, then finally joked to him he was going exactly my pace. We stuck together until maybe mile 8.5 or so, where the hill started. Our pace started to slowly speed up over those miles (between maybe 9:30 and 10:05), but it was good to have someone to talk with and I didn’t notice. By the time we hit the hill, I could see he was going a bit too fast for me. I lost sight of him and I dialed it back a bit.

The hill really wasn’t that bad. I’m not sure what the net elevation change was, but this one single hill between 8.5 and 9 miles was the only noticeable hill in the entire course. I’m a big wuss when it comes to hills, and this one didn’t bother me one bit. No leg pain.

Around mile 9 was the first spot I had planned to see boyfriend J, and there he was! He was along the median just past the starting line, so I got a big smile and I waved at him. (Photos will get their own post)

J and I had an argument the previous day about how I would tell him where I was. The race had a Facebook app installed that would automatically post your splits, which he wanted me to use, but I didn’t really want my embarrassing numbers posted for all of my friends to see. So I told him I’d text him every few miles so he could plan accordingly. This turned out to be very useful, since the runner tracking on Eugene Marathon’s website broke entirely. I hated being that annoying person on my phone – I’m sure other runners were rolling their eyes at me – but it helped J find me.

Around mile 11 the full and half marathon courses split. I was pretty excited for this 🙂 But instead of a bit inflatable arch or signage, they just had volunteers yelling “marathon – right!” Half marathon – left!!”. Hah. Oh well. The marathon folks took off up a highway on ramp, and the half marathoners looped back over a bridge. I felt really really good and EXCITED at that point. The crown thinned out notably, and I was looking forward to the river part of the course.

As soon as the half and full split, I began walking the water stops. They were much less chaotic than in the previous miles, and it was good to deal with Gu/water and not spill. Aside from one or two of the water stops near the beginning, I took water or Gatorade at each stop. I had my Amphipod with me and by the end of the race that was gone too. I was a bit worried about too little water -> big Christina headache, but my fueling turned out to be just right.

I fueled roughly every 4 miles. I took Gu or Cliff Shots mostly, with a bag of Chomps in the middle. I got off the pattern around mile 14-16, since I’d taken a banana slice from a station, which filled me up.

The full marathon break part took us through Springfield (city next to Eugene) for a few miles. This was the least scenic part of the course, but I didn’t mind it. It was sort of worn down and industrial looking, but really not that bad. We went past a bus stop that had big signs saying “closed Sunday for marathon” and there was an older gentleman sitting on the bench just grinning and watching the runners. He made me smile!

We turned left and went into a residential part of Springfield, before looping back to a 4-lane road towards the river. Somewhere around here I spotted a moped with a sidecar, and felt it was so notable that I had to text J about it.

Near 13 miles I realized I had big blisters forming, so at my next meeting point with J (around mile 16) I changed socks and re-greased my toes and feet. At this point I actually SAW how bad one of the blisters was (near a regular hotspot on my right foot) and I got kind of grossed out and worried about it for much of the rest of the race.

At mile 16 I was still feeling really strong, and we looped back to the other side of the river where the exceptionally gorgeous views began. Sround mile 19 I started to feel myself get tired. I wasn’t getting into my tunes at all during the race, but here I just couldn’t even stand to have music playing. I tried making conversation with a person or two, but they didn’t seem interested in talking. Around here the temperature increased past my happy-place 60 degrees, so I started feeling that too.

About a mile later I heard two girls chatting, and said “Hi, I really really need some talking. Can I join you for a bit?” And they laughed and said yes. Only one of the girls was racing (Jen) and her friend (I didn’t catch her name) jumped in for 10 miles to keep Jen company and get in her own training run that day. GREAT IDEA. I need to keep this in mind for my next marathon. I’m so used to long runs with other people, and having someone to talk to really distracts me from increasing tiredness. So to throw in someone new and fresh and full of talking and energy around mile 16? Perfect.

I stuck with them for the next 30 minutes, and I think if I hadn’t done that, I think I would have become a big mess much earlier. At some point the comment was made that Jen’s amazingly consistent at 10 min/mi, and I was getting a bit too exhausted, so I dropped off around mile 22ish to use the bathroom, telling them good luck. I knew they were going just a bit too fast for me at that point, so it was smart to slow down.

This is where things started to feel dire. I didn’t hit the wall, per se. I think my good fuel/water intake helped prevent that. But new aches began. Mainly, my lower back began hurting badly, which is not something I’ve experienced during a run before, so I started to worry. I began having hip flexor issues too, which is also not normal for me.

Anyway, the back pain started getting really bad and I just focused on getting through the next 4 miles so I could stop moving. I wasn’t planning to see J again until mile 25.5. But it turned out that my hosts/friends BR+AQ surprised me and came to cheer near a park around mile 23 or 24! I was beyond happy to see them. I asked them to jog with me for a little bit, so they joined me, flip flops and all, for about a quarter mile. (I have such awesome friends. I’m really lucky.) I needed something to keep my mind off my back so I immediately said “START TALKING” and ended up getting to hear a story about getting in trouble with security at Tokyo Disney. It was just what I needed. J had told me beforehand there was no chance he’d run with me, so I’m really lucky that BR+AQ jumped in.

Before she took off, AQ had the stunningly insightful observation that I must be doing well, since “my feet were still pointed in the right direction.”

This pushed me on through to past the soccer fields where I saw J at mile 25.5. I was so thrilled that I was almost done, and I think I gave him a kiss, groaned, dropped off my Amphipod, and kept right on going.

The finish line was on Hayward Field. Having never run in any organized fashion in school, it was surreal to head onto a track when there were people in the stands cheering and stuff. It just felt so strange to run with an audience. I’m used to having an audience for performing, but running is just such a personal or small group thing for me it just was so odd to have people in the stands watching.

There were two timing sensor things right before the finish, and multiple strangely-placed photographers. My poor distance-addled brain was confused by all of this, and I wasn’t quite clear what to do. I think I forgot to raise my arms until a little too late, and my finish line photos are just atrocious! I also forgot to look up and see myself on the jumbotron screen.

I finished in 4:39:11. My only goal was to finish, so I’m satisfied with my time. My training plan & pace calculator had predicted I could do roughly 10-15 minutes faster, but that’s OK. I finished. I am proud and happy.

After crossing the finish line, my prevailing emotion was happy numbness. I grabbed some food and stretched. My group had trouble reconnecting afterward, and an unexpected side benefit of it was that I kept walking (slowly, in circles) while trying to find them. After we reconnected, it turns out they’d thoughtfully brought a big bottle of Goose Island beer for me.

The rest of the day was a blur…I sat on the floor for an hour or two, eating lunch and drinking a beer float. Mentally I felt like someone hit record without putting in the tape, if that makes any sense? I was watching things happen, but not really registering.

Once I got up off the floor, we drove to a hot springs about an hour and a half away from Eugene and soaked for an hour or two. It felt incredible. My muscles didn’t hurt while they were floating! The hot springs were incredible (as was Eugene in general) so there will be a whole post about awesome Eugene things in the near future.

While at the hot springs AQ told me that watching me run Eugene had inspired her to train for a century (a 100-mi bike ride.) That was perhaps the best thing anyone’s ever said to me throughout all of my training. It was just really touching that little old me – someone who’s not ridiculously in shape, simply running my first marathon with an unimpressive time – could inspire her to try to do something similar. She’s not particularly athletically inclined, but the idea of competing against yourself to achieve something big really resonated with her.

Anyway, I’m just overjoyed I did it. I think my biggest takeaway lessons from the race are:

  • Work on controlling my speed. I went out too fast and it ended up slowing me down too much at the end. My goal should be consistency and negative splits.
  • On the same note, it might be time to get a Garmin.
  • During my next training cycle, I want to get in a 22 miler or two. I had planned to do this, but an out-of-town wedding caused it to become a horrible weeknight 20-miler instead. By pushing myself past 20 I think I’ll get a better sense of what I can and can’t do and how to make those last 6.2 miles a bit less awful.
  • Bribe a friend to run with me towards the end of the race.
  • Try out a handheld water bottle and/or a different fuel belt.

Here are my splits. Sorry for breaking it down in a strange way, it’s what helped me reflect on my race:

Mile 1 0:10:05
Mile 2 0:20:10
(At that point my mile info tracking stopped being accurate. The rest of the splits are official-only.)
Mile 6.21 (10k) 1:02:12

Avg Pace for first 10K: 10:00/mi

MIle 13.1 (HM) 2:10:44
This is less than a minute off my half marathon PR. Had I noticed this at the time, maybe I would have slowed down.
Avg pace for second segment (6.89 mi): 9:56 min/mi

Mile 19.26 (31k) 3:18:03
Avg Pace for third segment (6.16 mi): 10:55 min/mi
Makes sense – this is where I stopped briefly to deal with blisters.

Mile 26.2 (last 11k) 4:39:11
Avg Pace for last segment (6.94 mi) 11:41 min/mi
(Clearly that’s where my problem was – the last 6 miles or so.)

Average pace across the whole race: 10:39 min/mi

Anyway, not to get caught up in what I could have done better! I’m completely thrilled with my race and training experience, and I don’t think I can even capture that fully in words.

Up next: a half marathon or two, with vague intentions of another marathon late this year…


Eugene Marathon. DONE.
May 2, 2010, 1:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I just ran my first marathon. I finished somewhere in the mid 4:30s. I am now sitting on the floor drinking beer floats with John and BR+AQ. I will not be moving for a long time. I am SO FREAKING HAPPY.

Race report forthcoming. When I get off the floor.