Monday, October 5, 2009

Made in Portland

Welcome Portland


I didn’t cultivate my 3:40 harvest I was hoping for, I didn’t even cross close to it.

And I’m okay with that. I really am. Because, as I told my pacer friend at mile 23: I have never in my life worked so hard for a time in a marathon before – and that to me is a victory in itself: I learned to finally trust my training and not be so afraid of running my hardest. I learned I CAN run hard and not be so afraid to do so. The next time I get on the start line of whatever marathon I decide to do next, I will stand there with the 3:40 pace group and not second-guess whether or not I should be there. I now know I should! And one day I will either do it or give up having fought like hell for it - and THAT, my friends, is what I have been so afraid to do! That is a far sweeter victory than crossing with a PR.

I think I did most everything right in Portland. I didn’t start out too fast and kill the race within first few miles, as I am notorious for. My pace wasn’t all over the map; I ran hard but remained controlled. I didn’t allow myself to get fixated with my watch and a time. I started out sandwiched between the 3:40 and 3:45 pace group, making sure the 3:40 group was in view; the leader had to be about 7’ tall so it was easy to spot him. Mile 2, despite having gone to the bathroom about 8 times that morning, found me having to pee. And bad. Found a few Porta-potties the side, I saw they were open, and I darted in front of runners, hopped onto the sidewalk, and wedge myself between spectators to do my thing. I’m not sure how long I was there, I refused to be a victim to the “watch” but it couldn’t have been for long yet upon my return to the race, I could not see my 3:40 beanstalk pacer dude and was pretty sure the 3:45 group was now also in front of me.

I remained calm and fell into a pace where I could slowly gain time to reach the 3:45 group which I came upon about mile 5. Hovering with these guys for a couple miles left me feeling like I had more in me; I could see the towering 3:40 pace man holding his Red Lizard (the local running club) sign in the near distance and I decided that, because there was not much more than a minutes between the two groups, if I wanted to make my move up to the 3:40 group, now was the best time to do so before they realized they were not exactly on target and started to speed up. About mile 7, I reached the 3:40 group and there is where I hung out, and felt great.

Until mile 16.5 when they lost me on the climb up to the St. John’s Bridge.

I SUCK on hills. I know this little fact is my nemesis but I had no idea just HOW atrocious my climbing skills are until you visibly watch literally a hundred people pass you by. In one measly mile.

I don’t know exactly why I can’t run up…I train at elevation, I’m not at sea level, I should have tons more oxygen to easily carry me up; I have hills I run in my regular running routes; I ran Pikes Peak a few weeks back, for crying out loud; I practice running hill repeats in my neighborhood. Apparently, it’s not enough – or I do not have the right muscles or the correct build to be a hill climber. I need to either train a little differently for big, long hills or I need to succumb to the fact that my weakness curbs my body upwards – and that’s just the way it is. I will talk to trainer- man about this, hopefully soon, because I’ve determined I will never PR, best I can tell, if there is a major hill at the end of a marathon. It just about wipes me out.

The bridge’s hill crests about mile 17 and though the 3:40 left me way behind and the 3:45 group managed to pass me, I regrouped and was relieved to quickly catch up to the 3:45 group (I am certain the only really scenic part of the course, which was on this bridge, will have a picture of me sandwiched between a cluster of 50 wanna-be Boston qualifiers – this group was massive and somehow, as I entered the group, I also encountered the photographer. Dern!). I ran with this group for a few miles…..only now, something was amiss, off, just not feeling right. My effort now felt forced and come mile 20, I started to feel that heavy leg syndrome that equates to fatigue. I tried to run in front of them, hoping to find some superhuman kryptonite powers from my tiny sip of Ultima electrolyte from the aid station, but I couldn’t stay there more than a few minutes.

Mile 21 brought me support – Ellison. Dear, sweet Ellison is a friend of SBS (aka, Sarah), SBS is wonderful woman whom I met via the blog world and have secretly admired for a couple years (she gave me some pink arm warmers – THANKS!) and has given me the opportunity to do a little writing for her book (thanks, again!). Though I’ve never met Sarah or Ellison before, they took me out to dinner at a very quaint Italian restaurant called Lucca the night before the marathon and we all hit it off well. So upon Ellison’s entry (the woman has hawk eyes, I was in a group of several people and she spotted me – thanks, Ellison), she asked me immediately how I felt and I responded that I was fading ….. fast. I wasn’t sore nor had any agonizing body parts; I just was suddenly overcome with dreaded fatigue. Ellison managed to keep me in pace with the 3:45 group for about a mile and after that, I had to let them go, I could not hang on. Having run the course a couple times in prior years, she was able to tell me when a short uphill was approaching; a nice, reprieve of a downhill (where I apparently caught a second wind for a brief half mile for she told me, “you don’t know want to know how fast you just ran that mile”; followed by a microscopic hill at mile 23 that just about made me want to cry. I told her I had to just walk about 6 steps; that was it, just 6 so I could not expel any more energy on an uphill. She got me back in the game and talked to me a bit about when she was in Boston and her experience there. Normally, I hate chatter in a marathon but I was so far beyond focusing on my pace or a groove or anything that was about anything other than how tired I was, so I welcomed her story.

Ellison ran with me up to mile 24 where were met by Sarah and the exchange between parties. I was so tired I couldn’t even thank Ellison so I tried to hold her hand for a second to show my appreciation. I think I managed a half-ass attempt at this – not completely sure (I still have yet to email and thank her…..but I will do so in a way-better-than-email gesture). By the time Sarah came into the game, I was done. Utterly and completely done. I must have been hovering around the 12 minute/mile pace because honestly, it seemed like eternity before mile 25 came into view – I could have sworn to all the heavens above that we had passed it hours ago! Sarah asked me if I wanted her to talk and I told her I did and it was kinda funny because I don’t think she was ready to hear that and as she mentioned later, she can talk to the world about anything yet at that moment was at a loss for what to say to me J. She talked about her marathon in San Francisco and how she couldn’t break 4-hours and she talked to me about the parts of downtown Portland we were entering. She told me at one point I had less than 5 laps around a track left – and I cringed; 5 laps around a track seemed like a death sentence. Somehow I managed to pick up the pace a little the last mile, but not by much. A couple turns off the main street and I’m across the finish line.

I saw the clock reading out the times and my brain computed that I had not run the 3:40 (which I knew), and I didn’t even manage to PR (off by 13 seconds) but it didn’t even matter. I remember thinking of a quote from some famous runner guy that my internal memory playlist is full of which said, “you got to ask yourself, ‘Do you want it? You got to answer yes’ “that with 5 laps around the track left, I didn’t want it. What mattered to me was that I gave it my all out there on that course and I was very, very proud of that!!!

Sarah followed me all the way though the end, just sliding off to the side as I crossed the clock and scooped me up on the other side to help gather my trinkets. I can’t even express my gratitude to her for no spectators were allowed anywhere near the finish, they were all fenced off way to the sides, but I don’t think she was aware she was trapped until it was probably too late. No one questioned her being there, I don’t think, and honestly if she weren’t there, I probably would have found the nearest tree and planted my butt down for hours. She kept me moving and got me chocolate milk, grapes, an orange, banana, pb cookies – all the things I needed to get back in my body immediately and get me refueled. After I got my gorgeous, pink rose and finisher’s shirt, we excited the masses and she walked me back to my hotel where I retrieved my camera so I could snap a picture. I felt really great at this point and I walked with her across the bridge to the other side of the river where she had a rowing race that morning and left her bike there to get her back home. I enjoyed the time with her, learning about her rowing endeavors and savoring the time with a new friend.

Could I have done anything differently in Portland to help my demise near the end? If there is one factor that may have been a contribution it is the fact that I did not take any GU's for fear that they are the intestinal culprit that seems to cause me major stomach cramps and therefore, I most likely did not get in enough calories to help drag my butt along. So I will continue to work on getting a pb sandwich on my long runs and also start playing with other forms of nutrition. So maybe that was the culprit, and yet maybe not. There is no way to know for certain.

I may not have raced the time I wanted in Portland but I came away with an incredible sense of accomplishment having run my heart and soul into that race. I meant some awesome friends along the way: In addition to Sarah and her friend, Ellison, I also was part of a team from a blog site on Runner’s World and our team was called: The Loopheads. Though we had emailed many times and blogged our aches, pains, and ailments for the past couple months, it was an honor meeting them in person and hanging out with them at many times throughout the weekend. Friday, Leah picked me up at the airport. Friday night, we all met up at Rimsky’s, a coffee/dessert house was our initial meeting and two others from the blog world showed up, too. Saturday, we all met at Juanita’s house and we took group pictures. Saturday night, Dave and I went to dinner and had a few drinks and then later met up with Sara and Liz for a martini. Sunday, Dan and I walked around downtown then met Juanita and her husband for an evil donut at the notorious Voodoo donughts. They later took me to the airport. 4 of them (Liz, Juanita, Leah and Dave) never and a marathon before. Juanita ran her first marathon on her birthday; we celebrated as a group with some running gifts and a cake. Sara ran an astonishing 3:08 marathon, PR’ing by 3 minutes and placing 13th overall female (out of 10,000 runners). Liz followed close behind with debut marathon time of 3:17 and 37th overall female. I came in 3rd in I think 233th female (22 in my age group) and Juanita at 4:20, Dave at 4:28 and Leah at 4:44. It was an honor and an extreme privilege to be part of an amazing group of runners! Portland will always hold a very special place in my heart.

As Juanita and her husband took me to the airport today, she asked me which of my marathons were the most special. I told her each one had their own story and with it's own unique meaning ….and though Portland wasn’t a “pretty” or scenic course by any measure, it will be one that I will forever cherish as extra “special” – because of the incredible people I met this past weekend and because I feel I honestly am no longer afraid to fight for what I know is waiting inside me. That is a first for me.
I got to meet, and be on part of, an awesome team; I got to meet SBS, whom I consider a good friend; I got to meet Sarah's friend, Ellison; I even briefly saw a FB friend at the airport for a few minutes today, whom I hope to become better friends with. It was a weekend for firsts - all around

Thanks, Portland – I had a great time!

At Rimskys: Dan, Juanita, Me, Korina, Mac, Sarah, Liz, Leah

Team Loopheads: Liz, Juanita, Dave, Sarah, Leah, Me (front of shirts, above; back of shirts, below)
My view of the Willamette River outside my hotel. I know, sweet

Me, Sarah: standing outside my hotel immediately after the race (notice my awesome pink arm warmers that Sarah gave me??? Nice!)

Me, Dan on some bridge at the Willamette River

Dan, Juanita, Jeff (Juanita's husband), me: the infamous VooDoo Doughnuts

My donut: isn't it gorgeous (the perfect girly-girl donut)? But it tasted horrible - way too sweet. I had to throw it away after one bite :(


MrsCJ said...

That sounds like an amazing, challenging, fulfilling race all in one. Congratulations on a strong race! Sounds like you are gaining so much experience out there. I can't wait to be able say the same!


Claire said...

AwEsOmE!!!!! Go you! You ARE a bad ass!

FYI, I just saw VOODOO donuts on a show from The Travel Channel; very cool.

And how cool that you met up with RW group; I'm jealous.

You are an inspiration, Jill,

Dennis said...

Congratulations Jill. Great job to you and your team the Loopheads. You have some fast teammates there.

You should be proud. This is your 5th Marathon over the last year and a half and 3 of them were Boston Qualifiers. Also you were so close to your PR from last year, it's incredible.

Sounds like a fun marathon and a great time.