I guess I can't swear off road marathons just yet, since I didn't break 4:30 today at the Portland Marathon. But I did PR (4:32:53) by about 5 minutes and I couldn't be happier about that!
Saturday evening we met up for dinner with other bloggers Rob, Michelle, Olga and Joe along with a mixed group of maniacs and virgins from Washington. It's hard to talk to everyone in a big group, but I had fun meeting people I had only conversed with in writing and I enjoyed talking with others (Eric, Patch, Jenny, Sonya, Monica to name a few) that I had only "met" that day.
Sunday morning I got to the start area at about 5:50 am, earlier than needed but at least there weren't any lines for the port-a-potties. After taking my first potty stop I found a place to sit until it was time to get back into line for another potty stop. Patch walked by and recognized me and it turns out I was sitting right by the Washington group and didn't know it. So I joined them and had some company until the start at 7 am.
Just before the start, I found the 4:30 pace group leaders. The first mile was slow at just under 11 minutes, but the 4:30 group was behind me. The whizzed by me over mile 2 and since I was still trying to get in a groove I didn't go with them. By the time I got to mile 4 it seemed like I was already 2 minutes off pace. So at this point I kind of gave up any hope of a PR. But I tried to maintain a positive attitude and vowed to just try to run how I felt. The words that went through my head were "Steady" and "Just keep moving!" I think those words helped me find the balance of pushing myself just enough, but not to the breaking point.
At around mile 7 I caught up with the 4:30 pace group. Turns out they were a bit ahead of schedule. But rather than hanging with them I decided to just keep pushing along. At this same point I looked across to the runners coming back along this out and back section and saw Rob and Eric with the 3:20 pace group. But it was too late for me to shout to them. As I was coming back I saw Michelle and Sonya coming out. They looked strong and steady. Then I started looking for my mid-week running buddy, Janet, who had decided 6 weeks ago to walk the marathon. I eventually saw her and she shouted out to me, "You're getting a PR today, Girl!" That really boosted my spirits and made me realize that I could do it. By the halfway point I was between 1:30-2 minutes ahead of 4:30 pace. But I knew that I'd need that cushion for the hill up to the St Johns Bridge.
My fueling strategy was to just make use of the aid stations, supplemented with the Clif Bloks, sports beans, crystalized ginger and S!Caps I was carrying in my pockets. However, I knew the first few aid stations would be crowded so I decided to carry along an unwanted sports bottle that I could throw away by mile 5. That bottle came in very handy and I didn't end up ditching it until the mile 16 aid station. (Maybe I can learn to carry a hand-held afterall.) I didn't drink any of the Ultima. The Gleukos wasn't bad but I wished they had stuck with just one flavor. The orange they had at the first aid stations wasn't bad, but I never saw it again. I tried to drink a lot and had an S!Cap an hour. I had a few moments of nausea, but nothing that a good burp didn't cure. The ginger really saved me.
Just before the St. Johns Bridge at about mile 17, I saw some empty porta-potties with no lines so I decided I better take a break now since I'd lose time on the hill to the bridge anyway. Despite running the hill, by the time I got to mile 18 I had lost my 2 minute lead. However the 4:30 pace group didn't pass me until mile 22. I tried to go with them, but they were making up time and I knew I'd burn out trying to keep up with them. I told myself just keep moving, just keep moving. I realized I probably wasn't going to break 4:30 but it was still very likely I'd PR. So I just focused on that. My mind felt clear, my stomach felt good, but my legs were starting to break down. This was definitely the result of running on the asphalt, which I haven't run on longer than 10 miles since June. But on the other hand, I could feel that my ultra's had given me some sort of deeper endurance that I haven't felt in previous marathons. So my knees were killing me but I knew I could handle that a lot better than I could a loss of energy or that woozy, hitting the wall feeling. Just keep moving. Just keep moving.
I had run most of the way and only walked at the aid stations. But after mile 24, I let myself walk about 100 yards up the incline to the Steele Bridge. I knew that there was an aid station at mile 25 on the other side of the bridge. But I didn't plan to stop and there wouldn't be any more walking. Leading up to mile 26, you run under the Burnside Bridge and then the Morrison Bridge. The turn-off to the finish is before the Hawthorne Bridge. So on that last stretch along the waterfront, I've trained myself to not get excited about the finish until I've gone under Morrison and I can see Hawthorne ahead. I turned the corner at mile 26 and after a couple of blocks I heard Rob and Eric cheering for me on my right. I waved and got a big boost. I knew at this point I easily had a PR but I wanted to finish strong. I rounded the corner and saw the finish and heard them call my name. Before I knew it I had finished.
I'm glad I ran this marathon and I'm satisfied with my performance. Sure I would have liked to break 4:30 and I was pretty close. However, I know I did my best. I'll probably try again. I think I can do it with some dedicated marathon training and speedwork. But for now I still want to concentrate on the trails, both long and short. The trails are easier on the body. Right now, seven hours later, my muscles feel fine but I still have some knee pain. And I find the trails so much more enjoyable than the roads. There are so many trail races that I've yet to try.
Despite my satisfaction with my individual performance, one thing that can't go unmentioned that made this a fun day, was meeting new friends and seeing old ones. Really, that's what its all about...doing something we enjoy in the company of friends.