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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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Enjoy it while you can. And then, be prepared.

A few weeks ago I experienced my first real “winter” run of the year.  And it was depressing.  Icy wind and spitting sleet turned me into an instant hater of all things winter-related. And I LOVE winter.  The truth was, I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for hats, gloves and layers of moisture-wicking clothing. I wasn’t ready to fight the battle of the bitter winds. And I wasn’t ready to see my breath exit my mouth in a white cloud. 

Last winter, I experienced my very first symptoms of frost bite – a swollen, red earlobe that didn’t return to it’s normal size for almost a week.  Heading out under-dressed on an early long run meant turning around too soon because of unbearable pain in my hands from sub freezing temps.  It’s pretty simple:  going outside in winter just means taking the time to prepare.  And in the past, I have failed miserably.  Many times. My number one goal this year is to be well-prepared most, if not all of the time.  That means stocking up on hand warmers, having adequate fuel, utilizing a hydration system that isn’t hand-held, and wearing lots and lots of layers.

Fortunately, for now, the weather has turned back to its beautiful, crisp self, as it always does in Central Oregon.  I am slowly adjusting to the colder temps, while embracing the dry, sun stricken trails of fall – running on them as much as possible before Old Man Winter decides to drop some doozies.

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A dark cloud above my favorite butte in Bend, OR.

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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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Running Relays for the Masses // Race Report – CLR 2013

Running relays are in a category all by themselves. They are different than running a 10K where as they usually involve more miles, take place over approximately 30 hours, and your part as an individual participant is often blurred into a large “cog” of runners working together as a team.  But that team is the strength, support and sacrifice you all depend on to get through approximately 200 miles of running.

My first relay experience was in 2001, up in Washington State.  A bunch of college alumni decided it would be fun if we ran from Mt. Rainier to the Pacific Coast.  I was excited – how hard could it be?  Running a few legs between three and nine miles each?  No problem. But I had never run one before, so what did I know?

When we began the first leg, our team consisted of five members (most teams were running with 11).  We had confirmation we’d be meeting two others along the way, at some point, but nothing is ever “for sure” and this was before cell phones were common. I ran my first leg, which was about seven miles, and I did not want to run again, any time soon.

We were fortunate to find those last two teammates – somehow – in the midst of relay chaos.  And the rest was history.  My memories of that day/night/morning include running past a casino in the middle of the night, almost hitting a dog who was loose at 3am (in a Jetta), the funny glow of the sky that isn’t quite dark-but the sun is no where close to appearing at 4am, running through quiet the coastal range with the sound of chainsaws in the distance early in the morning, crossing the finish line at the beach and feeling so incredibly sleep-deprived at the finish and only a curb to hold us up. With just a burger to fill our tummies, we headed home after what I might describe as a surreal experience.  But a fun one, at that.

This year, I was invited to participate in the Cascade Lakes Relay. I had never considered doing another relay since Rainier to Pacific back in 2001.  My focus had always been on my own races, and therein lies the significance.  After I confirmed I would be able to participate, I was genuinely excited to embark on this virtually unknown adventure.  Running on the back roads of South Central Oregon had an appeal that seemed oddly refreshing – a change from the road runs I had been used to, coupled with a team who would be supporting one another throughout each leg.

Our arrival at Diamond Lake Resort the evening before the start of the relay was relaxing – just as seven people (six plus one support crew member) continued to make small talk and get to know one another as the sun set and the campfire burned bright.  Soon enough it was time for sleep – of which we all got none – and alarms soon chimed at 5am.  Our first runner was off at 6, and away we went.  Runners passed, we cheered, chatted and continued on in our van until our first six legs were over.  Seemed quick enough with a nice, long break at a park in the middle of a sleepy Southern Oregon town.  Sleep evaded me, as I am not one to sleep outside in the middle of the afternoon, and soon enough it was time to run again.  This time the sun was setting as our first runner pounded the gravel through the fields of cows. He had injured himself on the first leg, and so I gladly stepped in to help finish his second leg.  Night slowly fell as van after van and runner after runner became a flurry of red tail lights and reflective figures bouncing ever so steadily. My second leg ran along forest roads populated only by said vans and runners, but also kind individuals on tame horses who “watched over the night” as we ran past. This is where I failed to think intelligently, and did not dress warm enough – so after my leg my body began to shut down as my core temperature dropped.  It took a good two hours in a sleeping bag (since a hot shower was not available) for it to get back up to normal.

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We Thought They Said Rum – Van 1 (Nick, Amy, Cory, Glenn, Ed & Kathy)

Our night drive was dead silent after our exchange with Van 2. Mad props to our driver and co-captain who kept his eyes open for that long, half hour drive to our next area of rest.  One hour of sleep later, and it was off and running once again.  And while I was typically the fifth runner, I ran first that morning due to our first runner being injured.  An early six miles for me – and a lack of fuel – but I survived.  My final  leg included donning a costume – as it was relay’s official “costume leg.” Two miles of wearing a heavy, Pointer Sisters-style wig on my head was all worth it, as I was done.  WE were done. Van 2 was now in charge of bringing us to the Finish Line.  A quick shower and reunion with my family was in store.

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Amy as Diana Ross / Pointer Sister #4

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Cory passes off to Nick onto his first leg.

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We Thought They Said Rum Vans 1 & 2 meet up for their first major exchange.

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Glenn passes off to Amy onto her first leg.

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We Thought They Said Rum at the Finish Line.

As my van dropped me off at my house – it was a simple, yet physically / emotionally hard departure as I had been traveling with these people for over 24 hours straight.  In fact, it was almost 48 hours.  We had been working together as a team, and now it was over.  The bond you create with your Van is one that I had really never experienced.  Each team member worked and ran as hard as they could, to get us through the relay.  We all worked hard together.  I must have exhausted my family and friends with my continuous chatter about what a great time I had running in the Cascade Lakes Relay.  How much fun my teammates were – how I am planning more runs with them because they are just a great bunch of people.

When I was unable to run a marathon in June, due to illness, I could have never imagined that my frustration (and in turn, desire to run every race possible), would lead me to this awesome experience.  The Cascade Lakes Relay was just what I needed to pull my head out of the sand, and become a happy runner once again.

I am looking forward to running my 10th marathon next weekend (avoiding illness at all costs, KNOCK ON WOOD), thanks to the Cascade Lakes Relay and my wonderful, awesome and amazing “We Thought They Said Rum” teammates. XO.

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