The alarm on my phone rang. In one swift move, I snatched the phone and silenced the alarm before it could further disrupt my peaceful slumber. The time on my phone showed 4:50am. It was Marathon day.
Great motivation shirt from Nii Bar to keep my spirits high and my clothing layered.
I had been training for the Portland Marathon since the very end of July, although I suppose you could say that finding the beginning of my marathon training is a bit more complex than that. In May I ran a 50k that I had trained for for several months and then I amplified that training in volume to prepare for July’s 12 hour timed ultramarathon. So my base training was taken care of. All I needed to do was work on my speed to get my legs to be able to keep the marathon pace I would need to get a Boston Qualifier.
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon was something I had tried to do twice before in the Philadelphia Marathon and New Jersey Marathon, but was unable to accomplish. My first marathon–Philly–back in 2012 was my fastest marathon (3:13 and change) before Portland and the New Jersey Marathon in April 2014 was a slower 3:19 due to inadequate winter training. But on Sunday, I was ready. I had put in the work. I had several mile repeat workouts, temp runs at faster than marathon pace, and even a half-marathon 3 weeks before Portland at a 6:25 pace which was much faster than I’d run, but felt great afterward. My confidence could not have been higher going into Sunday’s race. Of course, I still got the marathon jitters, but I was cool-headed and everything was going well.
I didn’t eat any food while I was waiting around to leave my apartment. I did though, have about 3/4 cup of coffee–just enough to get the bowels moving, but not enough to make me have to empty my bladder during the race. I relaxed as much as could with a bit of Gotham on Netflix and rolling my legs with a massage roller stick. When it was nearing the time to leave, I changed into my racing gear, inserted 4 energy gels into the loops of my bib/fuel belt, and was out the door. It was a cool morning with temperatures around 53 Fahrenheit at the time, but I still appreciated Val driving me to where I would only need to jog about a half mile to my corral group instead of the 2 miles from our apartment. The jog was just enough to get the blood flowing.
I won’t go into too many details of the race, but I will offer a breakdown of main points to prevent me from rambling on:
COURSE: Overall, it was quite a flat course with wonderful scenery. The only real marathon runners really had to consider was the quarter mile steep incline that occurred around mile 16.5 when approaching the St. Johns Bridge. The marathon route took you a little bit into each quadrant of Portland, but is well routed to avoid suburbs and and minimize turns. I loved that there was such a good turnout of spectators and supporters as well as musicians and pirates (yes…pirates) to keep the energy up.
St. Johns Bridge (not my picture)
I would definitely recommend this marathon for a PR attempt and/or a Boston Qualifier attempt.
RACE NUTRITION: I have to admit that I was quite surprised that no energy gels were going to be offered throughout the course. They didn’t ban them, of course, so I was still able to bring mine along. Instead, they offered gummy bears and pretzels as well as water and Ultima electrolyte fluid. Even if the gummy bears were vegan, I couldn’t imagine trying to chew hard (it was chilly out) gummy bears while running. I did have a few pretzels toward the end of the race and to avoid running low on my preferred electrolyte replenishing drink (water and a Nuun tablet) I did grab plenty of Ultima that was offered. Too bad they weren’t filled more because with my quick-ish pace and the inevitable sloppiness of the cup exchange, I was only ever able to get in a few sips of the electrolyte replacer at any water station.
- Week before race: Not much specifics here. I slightly increased my fats and carbs. About 3 days before the race, I started to dial back (not remove completely) on the high fiber foods so my digestive processes weren’t going to have to work extra hard before the race day. I start to really focus on hydration as well, not necessarily removing coffee, but increasing my intake of water and foods with higher levels of electrolytes.
- Day before race: I don’t carboload all in one day. I think this is a common thought, but can have repercussions if it’s taken too far. For example, eating two big bowls or plates of pasta may not be able to be completely digested before you have to leave for the starting line. In my experience, I’ve found that my body likes it better when I ease up around lunch time on the day before the race and eat easily and relatively easy digestible foods all day such as potatoes, fruits, quinoa, and tofu. I also make sure my water intake is high.
- Day of race: I generally don’t like to eat the morning of a race and that was the case for the Portland Marathon as well. I stuck to a small cup of coffee and that was it. Throughout my training I had been training my body to use fat as fuel which involved me not eating before any of my runs (which took place almost always in the morning and included sprint workouts and 20+ mile long runs). Because of this, I knew that I could get at least 45 minutes into the marathon before taking an energy gel to make sure bonking wasn’t going to be an issue. Three more gels and a few pretzels helped ensure bonking didn’t happen.
Feeling like Bolt at the marathon expo. Ready to race!
What I learned and my final time go hand in hand. I decided to run with a 10oz Amphipod that I use frequently and filled it with water and a Nuun tablet for electrolytes. It knew that would not be nearly enough fluid to get me from start to finish, but I didn’t want to run with a bottle in each hand and I knew there would be Ultima on the course. What I didn’t realize was that at each station, I’d barely get a few sips of the much needed electrolyte drink. By mile 18, after the steep incline and bridge crossing, I started to feel some tightness in my calves. Unfortunately, I’m very experienced when it comes to this situation so I altered by stride and favored my other leg just enough to let the tightness of my calf muscle subside. I started to grab a water cup and an electrolyte cup at the stations, but I knew the damage was done. I managed to avoid cramping, but at the expense of taking it too easy on the declines and inclines, resulting in a slower pace in the last 5 miles than I would have liked to have been at (about 7:10/mile instead of the 6:50 I wanted to be at).
But I have to be happy…and I am. I qualified for Boston with a 3:04:10 which is more than 9 minutes faster than my first and fastest marathon time. I really wanted to go under 3 or at least 3:02:30 to have a better chance at actually making the 2017 Boston registration cut as a time faster than the official qualifier is often needed as of late. It looks like I’ll just need to run the Eugene Marathon in May to hopefully reach my sub-3 goal and ensure a Boston Marathon for 2017.
Stay tuned for my next post about how I’m taking recovery and how I’m trying to bounce back for a couple of 5k races coming up (first one is this weekend!).