This was supposed to be my last race celebrating the last few days as as a 38-year-old, and the race to ring in a new year as a 39-year-old. A week prior to the race, I kept looking at the weather and the prediction went from sunny with high of 50+ degrees, to rain and temps in the 40’s the day before. I kept visualizing both scenarios and told myself regardless of how the weather played out, I was going to be grateful and remain mentally strong throughout.
On Friday morning, we took off from Eastern Oregon to Portland, Oregon. The race was on a Saturday, which is unusual in Portland (I prefer Saturday over Sunday races anyway) and both the half marathon and 5K were capped to 1,500 runners combined. I ended up paying $89 (with registration fees) for the race, which included a technical t-shirt (the shirt ran big, but I didn’t bother to swap), a giant egg medal, and a mimosa flute. The course was described as “extremely flat” but if you are from Florida, you would have vehemently disagreed with that description. Though the course wasn’t hilly, “extremely flat” was not fully accurate because there were a couple spots that required some quad work, but not for a prolonged period of time. The event organizers offered four different bib pick-up days dispersed throughout the city of Portland, which made it extremely convenient. Registration was also available during bib pick up and my husband indicated he really wanted to run the half, so he registered on Friday when we ended up picking up our bibs.
I failed to eat breakfast on Friday (I don’t recall what I did that made me forget to eat), so we grabbed McChicken Sandwiches with pickles and ranch dressing out of convenience. The four and half hour drive required a couple of restroom stops (the 3-year-old, twelve-year-old, and four-legged-furry baby accompanied us), making the trip close to five hours. Because I have been battling some hamstring and butt pain, I MADE SURE to stretch and roll as much as I could inside the vehicle and outside of the vehicle. My body aches were my main concern going into this race, and I spent a couple of hours on Thursday wrestling with the thought that running could possibly further agitate my hamstring and butt and considered not showing up. In the end, I decided that if a race was going to side line me, then I obviously wasn’t healthy enough for marathon training either way and not to run Newport Marathon. Thus, this race was a perfect way to gauge whether I should continue training for Newport Marathon or not.
My carbohydrate loading feast the night before took place at the Olive Garden, where I indulged in salad, breadsticks, and pasta primavera with grilled chicken. My husband opted for Fettuccini Alfredo, and I made a comment that should I eat Fettuccini Alfredo the night before a race, I would most likely end up with diarrhea (lactose intolerant here). In all honesty though, I don’t care for creamy, buttery or cheesy sauces – or cheesy anything for that matter. By 9:3o pm, I was pretty exhausted and I did hip flexor and hamstring stretches, along with side plank leg raises and clams before calling it a night.
Because I was supposed to run 15 long miles, I thought I would do a warm-up mile prior to the race and then do a one mile run cool down after the race. Let’s just say, that didn’t happen because we got to the starting line with thirty seconds to spare before the gun went off. Much to my chagrin, we ended crammed up in the middle of the pack. We were so rushed, I ran with five packets of Extreme Sports Jelly Beans on my left hand and my cell phone on the right. I did manage to be responsible enough to consume a UCan Cinnamon Swirl Power Bar 45 minutes before the race. Once the gun went off, we found ourselves behind people who were walking or going at a pace considerably slower than ours. Shook off the “should have been here earlier, could have gotten closer to the front” thoughts and weaved around the people in front of me. Since we also did not arrive in time to use the portable bathrooms, my husband was still carrying around a serving of Fettuccine Alfredo in his intestines. Fortunately for me, I managed to take care of that detail at the hotel. We figured we would find a portable bathroom on the course somewhere and he could do his thing. Sadly, the closest portable bathroom was not until mile 6! Around the second mile, my husband’s stomach had slowed him down, and I made the decision to keep going.
On race day, the weather was nearly perfect. There were a slight breeze, temps were in the mid 40’s, and although it was overcast, there were no visible signs of rain. The crowd had also thinned down enough where I had plenty of room to run comfortably.
I think I have mentioned some time before that I don’t tend to race against anyone in front of me during a race because I feel that the journey of each and every runner is unique, and I don’t aim to elevate my journey over someone else’s by passing them. Now, if I were an Olympic athlete, that would probably be a completely different story, but since I am not, I am comfortable enough to allow others on the course to pass right by me. However, between miles five and seven, there was this cat-and-mouse game happening between another runner and myself. She would slow down, and I’d pass her. A few seconds after passing her, she’d sprint past me and she’d slow down again. My thoughts were, “I am not racing you and I am not trying to beat you.” However, after six times of going back and forth, I decided I was just going to pass her once and for all and not give her the opportunity to sprint pass me anymore. Either I would fatigue and she’d smoke me towards the end, or I would run strong enough where she would not be able to catch me.
Mile 8 is usually when my body starts feeling the half-marathon race. The hamstrings, my back, and my shoulders are especially susceptible to the pounding of the distance and when it begins to lose its form. So when mile 8 rolled around and neither my hamstring nor my back were feeling fatigued, I thought to myself, “Have I been taking it easy this entire time?” The mapymyrun app stated I was running at an average pace of 8:08 and it made me wonder if I was at a pace where I could beat my PR from the Run 4 Luv Half-Marathon I ran a year ago. With the realization that I was not hurting, I mentally pushed my body to refrain from seeking the comfort zone. I told myself, “You don’t train so it doesn’t hurt. You train so you can tolerate it.” When I saw the finish line in sight, I still wasn’t sure whether I was on pace to PR or not, but I looked to the side and saw 1:48:24 on the clock as I sprinted past the finish line! I was in complete disbelief! I then took a look at my running app to check how close or off I was and saw 13.23 miles in 1:48.40! I got a two minute PR without expecting it! My husband came in at 1:53 after two portable stops (and he learned his lesson about Fettucinni Alfredo). Oh, and the runner that I decided to pass at mile 8, she never caught me. Marathon Training continues! Which means I ran an extra two miles after my race to complete the scheduled 15 mile long run.
Do you race against someone in front of you? Have you ever eaten the wrong food the night before? How early are you to your race?