Monday, April 30, 2007

Eugene marathon race report

We drove down to Eugene on Saturday afternoon and arrived at the expo at around 3 pm. After picking up my bib and grabbing a few samples at the expo, we headed over to our motel. We were relaxing for a few minutes before heading out to meet Michelle and company, when she called to tell us that the meeting location had changed. We found the motel where we were meeting up and spent an hour or so talking with Darrell, his wife, Michelle, Jenny and others from their run club, many who were also marathon maniacs. This was my first time meeting Darrell and he and his wife are as nice and genuine as you would imagine. I love meeting fellow running bloggers and so far have not been disappointed. The rest of the evening was uneventful. After leaving the group, we grabbed a slice of pizza and hung out at our motel. The boys swam in the pool and I organized my stuff for the race. I think I turned in at around 9:30 and had a great night's sleep.

The alarm went off at 5 am. First thing I ate my pbj sandwich, drank some sports drink and my can of Starbucks doubleshot coffee. I had plenty of time so took a shower and got dressed. I was undecided about wearing my maniac singlet since I was worried I might be too cold. When I went out on the balcony to check the temperature I saw two otters swimming in the creek below. Very cool. Our motel was only a few blocks from the start so I left the room at about 6:20. The boys decided to sleep in. However I had discovered the day before that the course went by the motel at about mile 5-1/2, so they promised to be out there to cheer me on.

Near the starting line, I found the other maniacs including Eric and Rob who had run at Capitol Peak the day before. The sky was overcast but it felt warm and I was glad that I had decided to wear my maniac singlet. I had on tube sock arm warmers and really didn't need my throwaway sweatshirt I was wearing. Since my motel was so close I didn't have to get in the porta-potty line and it was a nice change to just be able to hang out and soak up the pre-race atmosphere.

Eventually, the start time neared and I made my way towards the 4:30 pace area. I was wearing my garmin gps and my plan was to start out at a 10:15 to 10:30 pace and then pick it up if I could. The first 5 miles of the race wound around through the university and the immediate neighborhoods. There were a few hills but nothing major. Having on the maniac shirt and hat brought me instant friends. I ran for a bit with Monte who had already run 11 marathons this year and also with Rick who is also a member of the 50 state club and has 8 more marathons this year to finish that goal. I also ran with Patch for a few blocks, who I've met before and is part of Michelle's group. During these miles my legs felt tight, but not really bad. One of the things I've gained from ultra running is the knowledge that things will usually get better. (And things can get worse, but we won't focus on that!) So I wasn't too concerned. What I was concerned about was that I was going too fast! According to my gadget, my pace was under 10 min/miles. I kept telling myself I need to slow down, I need to slow down. But I guess my body was going at the pace it wanted to run, because despite my attempts to slow up, I just kept chugging along at this pace.

Mile 5.5

I eventually came upon the spot where the course passed our motel and there were the boys with their cameras. I had been carrying my handheld and decided that I could make do with the aid stations. I had originally wanted to carry it as practice, but found it was just an annoyance when running at a quicker pace than I would in a trail run. So I handed it off and posed for a few quick pictures. They ran with me for a few blocks and then I said good-bye til I see you at the end.

This pic is fuzzy and crooked but I love that they captured me giving the thumbs up!

The next aid station was out of water and then, after running through a shady area by the river, we started a longer stretch out on the streets in the sun. I wondered if I had made a mistake to drop off my bottle, but I concentrated on drinking at every aid station and I was okay. At this point I discovered that I hadn't sealed my ziploc full of sports beans, ginger candy and electrolyte caps very well and it dumped out into my pocket. After a moment of panic I realized that this was okay. I don't think I'd plan on it for the future, but it was actually easier to just grab a few beans directly out my pocket.

During these miles I maintained my sub-10 pace and still had thoughts of trying to slow it up. The marathon and the half-marathon shared the same course, but around mile 10 they split, with the half taking a short-cut, and then joining the marathon course again at 11-1/2 before splitting off for good at the full marathon's mile 13. Around this final split off point every volunteer kept saying, you have just 1-1/2 miles to go. This happened enough times that I started to wonder if I had missed a turn and was on the half-marathon course. I was feeling pretty good about my sub-10 pace at this point and I didn't want anything to ruin it. But I soon came to the split and realized I was okay.

At mile 15 I came upon Rob, who had run a 55k at Capitol Peak the day before. We were at an aid station so we walked together for a moment. He was tired, but said he felt nausea or dizziness....just tired. No kidding! I'd be tired too if I had run that far the day before. Eventually I started on my way again. Thus began a 4 mile stretch along the river that was on all concrete. It was at this point that my legs started to feel noticeably sore. We were also running into a slight headwind. I just kept thinking to myself, that when we crossed over to the other side the wind would be on my back and there just had to be softer asphalt again eventually! Fortunately when we did cross over the river that was the end of any significant concrete.

Picture courtesy of Tom Riley

At mile 20 I saw that I had about an hour and 15 minutes to beat 4:30. Breaking 4:30 has been my holy grail and I would have felt really happy about making this goal. At every other marathon I've slowed down in the last six miles. So even with a slow down I figured I had a really good shot at breaking 4:30. But I've never felt this strong at this point either. I started thinking that breaking 4:20 was attainable if I could just keep up this pace. I'd been saving a double espresso clifshot for just this moment. At the next aid station I downed it with some water. It sure was nasty! But it did the trick. From this point on I was only passing others, and I don't remember getting passed. I'd see someone ahead and think, they look strong I'll catch them and run with them. But then I'd pass them. I kept telling myself, you are strong, you are strong. And I didn't have to convince myself of it, I really felt it! I also told myself, you are an ultra runner, you can run right through this marathon! At mile 23 the course went through Skinner Butte park where there were a lot of people out cheering. I grabbed their energy and carried it with me. I felt so good! I think this is where I saw Tom R., taking pictures. It was great to see someone I knew. I also received a lot of "go maniac' cheers through this area too. And I just kept on reeling the other runners in....

1/2 mile to go!

Near mile 25 we crossed the river again and then had to run around Autzen Stadium to the finish. I had planned to find the boys at the finish but hadn't really thought much about seeing them again on the course. At about mile 25 1/2 I saw them waiting for me on the corner. At this point I was pretty sure I was going to break 4:20, so I shouted out "I'm gonna smash my PR!", which I think po'd a struggling man I was passing at the time. (Oh well!) They ran with me along the sidewalk for a few blocks which was a lot of fun. But eventually the little guy couldn't keep up so we agreed to meet at the finish. I kept going strong and was still picking off people. Soon I reached the 26 mile marker and I turned it on. The course rounded a corner and I could see the finish line with the clock ticking off 4:17:xx. I was exhilarated to see that I was going to break 4:20 and kicked it in. Chip time: 4:16:21

I hung out in the finisher's area for a short time, grabbed some food to go and then exited so I could find the boys. Soon Darrell found me and then the boys. We all chatted for a while. Darrell will tell his own story, but it sounds like he had a good race despite being sick from a cold. Eventually we ran into Eric and Jenny who both had good races too. We chatted for a while longer but by now the boys were getting antsy. So we decided it was probably best to head home. I'm sorry to have missed the post-marathon meet-up, but I was glad that we were able to meet up for the time we did. Hopefully we'll have a chance to see each other again soon.

I'm thrilled to have a new marathon PR. But even more exciting for me is to know that I can keep up a steady pace for the marathon distance. I was tired and sore for the last few miles, but I learned that doesn't have to prevent me from maintaining the intensity. Running a sub 10 minute mile pace in a marathon is huge for me. It's changed my thinking about what I'm capable of accomplishing.


Carrie said...

The smile on your face in the last photo! Wow! I am so proud of you Sarah!!!!

robtherunner said...


What a great report. I knew you ran a PR, but I did not realize how much of a PR you had run. It was nice to see you again and I am glad I got to high five you on my way in. Congratulations on a great race.


Angie said...

wow, Sarah, that's awesome. How sweet that you felt so strong during the race!!!

mtnrunR said...

You looked so great during the race. Negative splits!!! You rock. That is what most or all marathoners wish for in a race and you have mastered it! Look at your first 10k and your last 10k. Negative splits there too!!! Dang, you are running fantasticly!!!

There are a couple other pictures for you at

You are going to do great at PCT 50 miler. A lot of "running" there also!!!

Great job and super running.


stephruns said...

it was a real thrill to read your report. running a marathon is a hard thing to do; just seeing the asphalt gives me goosebumps!!!!!!!!!

congratulations on getting stronger and speedy:-)

sherri said...

WTG Sarah! I love the wonky photo too. You *are* strong.

Addy said...

Reading your report was so exciting :) You did such an amazing job out there! Your new PR is just spectacular; running sub 10 min/mile pace of a whole marathon is just inconcievable to me right now. You should be so proud of your performance out there!

All that support you got over wearing your singlet makes me want to be a maniac too. Maybe I can pull off enough to get me in on the one star level this year :)

Thanks so much for sharing this with us, and congratulations!!!

olga said...

You are strong, and you are an ultrarunner, and you can make through anything, and you need to trust your body, and wow - congrats again!!! Great posing for pictures!

wendy said...

Wow! Good job Sarah! It sounds like it was a great day for a lot of people. I loved that you finished really strong, picking off people in the last 6 must have been really motivating - I imagine the race is a lot more fun if you finish faster than when you started! I really enjoyed your race report too. I hope you have a wonderful week!

Joe said...

Big time PR!!! Waaaaaaay to go, Sarah!!! Great description of a great race!!

All your ultra training did you wonderfully well. How cool to push hard in the last 6 miles, rather than merely seeking to hang on!!

Darrell told me on the phone the concrete was tough...glad you persevered through it.

To see your boys, cameras in hand, had to be a treat at the end.

Awesome run!! Congratulations!!

Backofpack said...

Wow, Sarah - great time! And a great report - it really reflects your excitement! You ran an awesome race, just awesome. Sorry I didn't get to see you at the end.

Jack said...

Great time, congratulations on a new PR. Your smile right before the finish says it all!

~concrete angel~ said...

Great job Sarah!

You look really happy and strong throughout! Good for you! I enjoy checking out running blogs from time to time and yours is a real pleasure :)


Darrell said...

Love the enthusiasm here and really feel how much the race PR meant to you. Here's a Woot, a holler and High-5, after the fact. You ran a great race, Sarah.

Bret said...

Awesome job Sarah. Isn't it great when everything feels good and the PR just happens? Eugene is a great fast course I think, I had my 3rd fastest time and didn't even feel like I was pushing it till mile 15 or so. I must have said hello to you in the finish corral as I was just 10 minutes ahead of you and was wearing my Maniac colors too.

rick said...

Hey lady, wish I visited sooner but you look SHARP in your Marathon Maniacs gear and that running form....very cool. All those long runs have really paid off, congratulations on the 4:16!

maniac hippo said...

Woot! Congratulations on your PR. I need to work on my training to keep up with you.

Your schedule starts to accelerate now, doesn't it? Are you still doing Mac? I'm going to miss it but want so much to hear what you think.

I feel guilty about taking so long to get around to reading your report. The only way I managed today was to fly down early to Sausalito for tomorrows race and get some quiet time here.

Sarah Elaine said...

Best post ever! I got all revved up just reading it. You ROCK, girl. Yes, you are strong. And now you've raised the bar WAAAY higher than it was before. You're in a brand new league, baby. Enjoy it!

Ryan said...

What a great weekend. I enjoyed the pictures nothing but SMILES for all 26.2 miles…you're looking strong out there….keep on truckin. Congratulations on a sweet finish at Eugene!


Journey to a Centum said...

Sarah, I wish we had more time to spend together in Eugene but it sure was nice to see you. Way to go speedster with a new PR! Keep up the great training. You certainly are seeing the results of your hard work and fun!


Bob Gentile said...

Hey Sarah, Great Race report & Congrats on your PR....awesome!!