Oh Portland, how I love thee. On a sunny day, you are my city – the place I could move in a heartbeat and feel like I was home. Your coffee, music scene and population of runners remind me of this every time I visit. So why did you have to hurt me so? Apparently, Sunday, October 5 was just not my day to run a marathon.
Let’s back up a couple days to Thursday, October 2. I had just bathed the kids and was upstairs draining the bathtub and doing a load of laundry, when I hear my husband telling the kids, “Go get mommy! Go get mommy!” As I’m coming down the stairs, all I can see are their naked bodies backing up towards the front door, their eyes widening while looking down at the ground, and panic on their faces. All I remember thinking is “you can’t go outside – you’re naked and it’s too cold!” But the gushing water coming out of the toilet wasn’t stopping.
Yes, our main floor with our kitchen, dining and family room flooded when the toilet in the powder room next to the kitchen started overflowing with water. And would not stop. No one flushed, it just so happened that it was a blocked sewer pipe in the front yard that had finally had it and wasn’t going to let any water through. So the bath water went down and came back out the toilet. And went all over our floor. And through the floor into our newly carpeted basement. Ugh.
Time for a reconfiguration of the weekend, if you will. After a long night with the plumber and calming the kids, we packed up on Friday leaving my husband to demo the damaged parts of the house, while the kids and I drove to Salem to stay with my parents. I was a little stressed and could feel it winding its way through my core, but I was trying so hard not to let it get to me. My friends were running in Portland with me, and I was so excited for the race this year.
Saturday we headed up to OMSI so the kids could have a little fun. We probably would have been better off riding the OHSU tram, given all they wanted to do at OMSI was ride the elevator. Most of the exhibits weren’t really age appropriate, and if they were, they were occupied or broken. Oh well. Next time. We ate lunch and my parents took the kids back to Salem for a little ride on the carousel – which is ALWAYS age appropriate.
I stayed in PDX, checked into my hotel, and finally met up with my friends, Rainie, Kristen and Glenn at the Marathon Expo. I was finally feeling a little less stressed and lighter on my feet. Truly happy to be in Portland on such a beautiful day. We shopped, ate ice cream and got to join our former Cascade Lakes Relay teammates, Ed and Martin, for dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory that evening. Rainie, Glenn, Ed, Martin and I had all been in Van 2 of the relay this year – and had a wonderful time together.
That evening I relaxed in my hotel room by watching as much cable TV as I could soak up – and had complete control of the remote. I honestly don’t remember the last time I had control of a remote. I also laid out all my gear and food for the next morning. Had to make sure I remembered everything, because I was all alone – no one to help me remember to pin my bib on.
Race morning came quickly, but after 12 of these, I am finally getting the hang of them. I put on my gear, made sure everything was tied, packed, pinned, and secured with rubber bands (pony tails), then quickly ate a bar and an apple. A Japanese runner who shared the elevator with me was quick to take off and run his warm up after leaving the lobby. I jogged a bit and my legs felt good, so I walked the rest of the way to my corral.
Soon we were off, and the sun was up. The drums from the marching band overtook downtown as we ran by in the early hours – one of my parts of the Portland Marathon. I started off with the 3:40 pace group, and was feeling good – even pulled ahead of them for a while. But too soon, I started to feel like I was working too hard. I was sweating too, which meant it was humid. Not good.
Around mile two, I passed Ed and Martin cheering us on from Waterfront Park – so great to see familiar faces. I ended up seeing them again at miles 17 and 26. They were such an amazing support team. Throughout the first half, especially the out and back section of the course, I was feeling like I needed fuel. Unfortunately, I was taking it and not feeling any better. I made the mistake of trying something new and wearing two sports bras (extra support, which I really didn’t need), and was struggling to breath deep enough. I popped in a porta john around mile 11 and took one off, thinking it would help. It didn’t.
I then got a uni-side stitch, meaning it surrounded my core. And it didn’t go away. Through the half way point at 1:49:50, I knew if I didn’t get a second wind, things weren’t going to go well. I had the strength, but really needed something to kick me into another gear. My stomach also wasn’t handling things super well. At this point, I’m not sure if it was the Ultima they were handing out on the course, but it was the only thing I did differently.
On the way out to the St. John’s bridge I was suffering. Desperately looking for any aid stations I could find that would offer water or electrolytes. Fortunately, I ran into my friend and running partner, Glenn. I informed him that this just wasn’t my day and to go ahead. But it was sure good to see a familiar face. That is a tough stretch to go alone. Finally it was up to the bridge. While I ran up to the top, going across the sun hit me and I had to stop and walk. This is my favorite part of the course so I didn’t mind soaking in the views.
Over the next stretch, my body was just not coping well with the heat and direct sun. I tried GU and water, but never got the extra kick I needed from the caffeine in my gel. I continued to struggle with an upset stomach, side stitches and an uncomfortable fatigue from the heat. I even stopped at the beer aid station around mile 23 to see if that would settle my stomach. Couldn’t hurt at this point. And I must say, it wasn’t bad. Finally, after making it over the bridge, I was able to cruise in on almost all four cylinders, all the way to the finish. Finally, it was over. 4:06:18 is my slowest time in years. Number 13 was definitely an unlucky one for me.
Fortunately, I am feeling good. I am convinced that it was a combination of stress, heat/humidity and maybe making the mistake of drinking Ultima. I had run the Sunriver Marathon a month prior and felt great. Heck, I felt great up until we started. But life happens. I used to plan an entire year around one marathon hoping that I wouldn’t get sick or injured on, or before the event. Now I’ve gotten wiser and have decided that running two or three marathons a year is a much better plan. Life’s too short.
My friend Rainie ran her very first marathon that day, and had a GREAT experience. That’s really all you can ask for, right? Coaching a friend to find the love of marathoning? Made it all worth it.
So guess where I’ll be next year in October? In Portland, ready to run and have a much more fulfilling experience than last year.
I love you, Portland. And I’ll be back again next year.