Tag Archives: marathon training

Race Report // Portland Marathon 2014

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.

Checking out bones at OMSI.

Checking out bones at OMSI.

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.

Views of Portland from my room.

Views of Portland from my room.

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.

Ready to run.

Ready to run.

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.

St. Johns Bridge

St. Johns Bridge

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.

Finished. Happy to be headed home.

Finished. Happy to be headed home.

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.

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Race Report // Sunriver Marathon for a Cause 2014

On Sunday, August 1st I ran my 12th marathon in Sunriver, Oregon.  I completed the same marathon last year, but had a rough race due to high temperatures. The entire 26.2-mile course is peaceful and breathtaking, and I was determined to have a great race this year.

Fortunately, the forecast called for cooler temps throughout the weekend, and that was certainly the case on Saturday.  We made the quick drive from Bend out to The Lodge to pick up my packet, and decided to stay and eat lunch.  The cloudy, cool weather was not keeping the Labor Day crowds away, as the Resort was packed with families.

Luckily, my nerves were non-existent the day before, which is new for me. But I had my clothes set out, fuel bottle full of GU, and proceeded to wake up every hour or so after 2 am until my alarm went off at 5:15.  And of course, I woke up with thoughts tainted by nervous energy. But soon we were driving to Sunriver, and I was ready to run.  Once we arrived, we made a quick retreat to the Lodge in an attempt to stave off the bitter, 39-degree temperature.

With five minutes until the start, we ventured outside and I knew I’d be OK with my attire of capri tights, short-sleeve Nike Dry-Fit shirt and gloves.  After a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by a young girl who’d lost her mother to breast cancer, we were off. My legs felt fresh and I tried to keep my pace comfortable but strong. The sun was up and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky except a white layer of fog that had settled below the tree line, with Mt. Bachelor towering in the distance.

I was on pace and feeling good through mile eight, but definitely starting to need fuel.  My bottle of GU was full but not squeezing easily, so I started grabbing Clif Shots from the aid stations – which were also stocked well with water and Gatorade.

The course is mostly flat on roads, golf paths and bike trails with beautiful scenery.  The first half runs through Crosswater – an immaculate golf course near the Sunriver Lodge, along the Deschutes River.  Then runners meander through the Caldera Springs Resort Community – a quiet neighborhood – before re-entering the Sunriver community and crossing back through the Start/Finish area near the Lodge. The second half runs out to the opposite side of the Resort near the airport and stables, also along the scenic Deschutes River.

The aid stations were stocked and the weather was optimal (start in the low 40’s with a blue sky, warming to the low 70’s).  Once I started fueling regularly (after struggling to suck down a Mocha shot, which ended up giving me a major boost), I went from negative thoughts at mile 13, to a second wind.

The course markings were perfect, the volunteers were amazing, and even the Resort guests were great cheerleaders.  I had very few, if any, problems.  The second wind took me from mile 15 through mile 22.  Each mile marker seemed to fly by until I slowed down a bit due to typical fatigue at the end of a marathon, and I was stopping at all the aid stations to refuel, just making sure I got what I needed so as not to bonk (like last year).

Soon I came upon the SHARC (Sunriver Homeowners Assoc. Rec. Center) and knew I was close. I kicked it into gear and cruised to the finish line.  I finished almost 10 minutes faster than last year, in 3:48, and got 3rd in my age division, with an 8th place overall women’s finish.  I was incredibly happy.  The marathon was a good “warm up” marathon for the Portland Marathon in October, where I’ll be attempting a Boston Qualifier.

The Sunriver Marathon went all out with Nike Dry Fit long sleeve finisher’s shirts, a fancy finisher’s medal, draw string backpack-style bag, pint glass (with a free beer), and large post-race spread of snacks.  There’s no doubt I’ll be back – this little race is definitely an awesome one.

On the podium (far left) with my friend, and super-fast runner, Charmion in the middle (she finished 2nd woman overall)

On the podium (far left) with my friend, and super-fast runner, Charmion in the middle (she finished 2nd woman overall)

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Never Question a Runner

If you have ever watched the finish line of a marathon, you’ll see a lot of carnage.  Runners struggling those last few steps to reach the end of 26.2 miles. Strained faces, painful winces and arms raised in victory are just mere samples of body language spoken so often by marathoners. Dare ask an accomplished runner if they’ll attempt another marathon right after they’ve crossed the 26.2-mile finish, and you’ll get the anticipated answer, “never again.” But do not be deceived.  Because 20 minutes later, you can ask the same question and get a completely different answer.

Runners are a different breed.  We push ourselves 26.2 miles, 50K, 50 miles, 100K and 100 miles. Hours at a time. One foot in front of the other. Mentally wavering from mile to mile. And then we cross the finish line, and it’s over. And all those memories of struggle, perseverance, pain, weakness and instability disappear before we can say lactic acid.  For many of us, the wheels in our heads begin to spin, dreaming up the next big challenge.  Let’s try this again.  After my recent marathon, a friend reminded me that once I finished, I was quoted as saying, “remind me why I do these things.” She reminded me because I am currently planning on running another in less than a month.

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The Footzone Dirty Half Marathon in Bend, OR. Photo courtesy of Megan Ann Photography

My friend Cory just finished his first 50K last weekend.  The day after, he was searching for potential 50-mile races. There is no question that running takes both physical and mental strength.  As runners, we seek to push our body to it’s limit, and then some. And we keep doing it.  Because the feeling of accomplishment is one so gratifying, it’s hard to replicate. And so, we keep running.

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They Told Me To Get Over It

The above title is a line of one of my favorite songs by Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside.  And it is a great description of my childhood. When I was young, I ran because I wanted to. No one told me I had to run on the track team. I wasn’t pressured into running cross country.  Running was a sport I began on my own free will.  And there were definitely other activities I participated in where that was not the case.  While I always recognize my father as my biggest influence in running (he ran numerous road races and marathons during my childhood), I also recognize that running was my choice, and my choice alone.

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Amy running the 2008 Boston Marathon.

But the choice did not come without opposition.  I remember being invited to join the middle school cross country team by a male acquaintance. When I got cold feet and didn’t show up to the first meeting, he saw me in the hall and called me a Bitch.  There’s motivation for you.  Or the time I was running a local 5K the summer before my junior year. I had been seeing a guy I worked with who had just graduated, and was also a cross country runner.  “Maybe you just shouldn’t run,” he told me. I never forgot that. And I went out for the high school cross country team the month after.

What I like to believe is that with all the negative energy that crossed my path, I used it as my personal launch pad, if you will. Give me a negative, and I’ll turn it into a positive.  I wasn’t the best runner in high school or college.  But I continued to pursue my dream. A dream that began inside a little seven year-old girl and blossomed 19 years later as I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. But that was just the beginning.  The person I became after my first marathon was the person I always knew I could be.  I finally had my first taste of success, and there was no going back.

Amy crossing the finish line of the 2008 Boston Marathon.

Amy crossing the finish line of the 2008 Boston Marathon.

I want to share that with all the girls and women who feel like people are standing in their way, telling them to give up. I want to tell my daughter that she can do anything she puts her mind to, and if she works hard, there is nothing she can’t do.

And to never, ever let anyone tell her to get over it.

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Marathon Countdown

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My legs. Ready to run.

Thursday is coming to an end, which means my marathon is that much closer.  I’ll be running on Sunday, and I’m not exaggerating when I say every ache, sniffle and stomach lurch throws me into a panic.  Somehow I forgot about my last two marathons where stomach issues threw me for a loop – but all my memories flooded back this week.

Am I ready? 100%.

Will I survive? YES.

Can my legs make it 26.2 miles?  MOST DEFINITELY.

Will I do all I can to mentally prepare myself so that my stomach cooperates and stays calm. WITHOUT A DOUBT. 

I can visualize running the route and crossing the finish line until I am blue in the face, but if I don’t get enough fuel the week prior and morning of, I am setting myself up for failure.  And I refuse to let that happen.  I’ve done it before, and you better believe I can do it again. Only faster.

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Post Storm Pace Run

After a full afternoon of thunder, rain and lightening, I was able to escape the kids and jet off for a quick run at marathon pace.  The marathon I am running, the Sunriver Marathon, is a week from today, and I wanted to make sure I did a little speedwork this weekend. After the rain has stopped, everything is damp and the air is cool.  This is prime running time. 

While I’ve been experimenting with running technology, I am not planning on using anything except a stopwatch and possibly a pace bracelet next weekend.  No music, no GPS, nothing.  I did, however, take my phone with me today to see how I felt at the pace I was holding.

My breathing was somewhat labored, but my legs felt great on the way out, which amounted to about 800 feet of elevation gain. I now realize I am in shape because I can get up a few hills and recover quickly after, while continuing to run at pace.  I am feeling good (knock on wood). Fortunately the pace averaged 7:50 min/mile and I only need to hold 8:15 to hit my goal.

The smells of damp juniper trees, pine needles, asphalt and rubber track all heightened my senses and helped engage me.  Now it’s time for  a real 26.2-mile race next weekend.  Can’t wait.

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Why I Love Boston

I am not from Boston. In fact, my first time visiting Beantown wasn’t until 2008. But I have been in love with Boston for as long as I can remember. My dad began running marathons in the early 80’s, and qualified to run the 1988 Boston Marathon. The impact of his accomplishment affected me in ways I wouldn’t realize until much later in life. I was only 12 at the time, but Boston, and the Marathon, always lingered in the back of my mind. At that time, besides the Olympics, running the Boston Marathon was the ultimate achievement.

20 years after my dad ran the Boston Marathon, I finally earned my ticket.  That’s truly how I felt. I earned my ticket to Boston by running a qualifying time in the 2007 Portland Marathon. This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and my entire family came along to celebrate.  My dream had come true. I even planned an appointment with a tattoo artist in Boston to commemorate my achievement.  This was a big deal, and I wasn’t about to forget how hard I worked to get there.

From the moment we stepped off the plane, Boston did not disappoint. South Boston, the North End, Cambridge, Jamaica Plains and Fenway Park. For four days, we experienced the energy, history and culture of a city that loves their marathon just as much as they love their baseball team, if not more (if that’s possible). And with every step, through every town from Hopkinton to downtown Boston, I realized that I had come to love Boston that much more.

But I am not the only one. Every year, people work for months to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon, running hundreds of miles.  Some may qualify, but many won’t.  That means they will have to devote another 4 months to training so they can try again. 26.2 miles is a daunting distance for most to just finish. But marathoners are a dedicated group of athletes, and crossing the finish line is one of the most amazing feelings in the world.  One of those, “I can do anything” feelings.And that’s why they keep running.

To think of all those who lost their lives today, at a place that is so sacred and so loved, makes me sad, angry and disheartened. To think of all those who had to suffer, hurt and witness so much pain today makes me angry. And to think of those who worked so hard to get to the Boston Marathon only to have been turned away at the finish line, or worse, injured at the finish line makes my heart drop. All I know, is that Boston will rally and surround their marathon runners with love and comfort. Boston will keep their runners and spectators safe and do what it takes to prevent them from harm. Next year, the marathoners will be back in full force. Because this is Boston. And Boston’s heart is wicked huge.

Boston 246

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Early Riser

Now that my kids have been consistently sleeping through the night (knock on wood), I have also been getting quality sleep. Which means getting up early is a little easier these days.  I can also train for my marathon in the morning before my family starts their day.  Mind you, this includes a 4:45 a.m. alarm, as well as navigating pitch black sidewalks and streets (I took some nice air off an invisible curb this morning, even though I was donning a headlamp), but having one more hour in the day to do my other favorite thing – writing, makes it all worth while. Alas, there are some other benefits to running in the morning.

I was able to look up at a vast array of stars – a view I haven’t seen for a long, long time. The world is so quiet and peaceful, and there’s a special feeling that comes with being awake when most people are sleeping. While I am cautious and much more aware of my surroundings (since I can’t see much of them) at 5am, I am also aware of how beautiful the world is when there are fewer distractions.

Perhaps the best part is getting home and walking in the door, pouring a cup of coffee and knowing that the day has only begun.

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