Eugene Marathon Recap (aka Best Race EVER)
I know I’m a bit late with this race report, and by now many of you know the outcome of Eugene marathon…but I can still hardly believe it so I must say it again: I qualified for BOSTON!!!!
It’s safe to say this was the best race of my life. Everything didn’t go perfectly (it never does) but I handled each mishap along the way and crossed the finish line in 3 hours 32 minutes and 23 seconds – a significant PR from 3:49:30 last year at Surf City, and a big improvement from my first marathon time of 4:01:59 in 2011 at Rock n Roll San Diego.
(Grab a drink, readers. This post is going to be a long one! Race day is about halfway down.)
Pre-Race in Eugene, Oregon
Day 1 (Friday): On the first leg of my flight to Eugene, I wrote out my entire race day plan on my iPad mini and emailed it to coach Trevor. He made me do this, and it took me 2 days before the race until I finally got it right. He always wanted more details, right down to my thoughts at each mile and songs on my playlist. (Don’t judge me for having 1 Bieber song on there…Have you tried running to #thatPower?!) He also wanted me to write out everything that could possibly go wrong and identify what my worst fears were. So, I got very deep with my thoughts and typed a novel. I kept reminding myself that I was feeling “calm but excited” and around mile 20 I reminded myself that it was “supposed to hurt” while I was giving it “all I got.” I was visualizing race day more clearly than I ever had before and was mentally preparing myself to overcome any obstacle that would come my way.
I met my blogger friend Page for the first time in real life on my second flight. (Nicole had met her once before at a run in SF, but I only knew her through her witty blog posts, selfies, and tweets.) I got on the TINY plane where Page was already seated and introduced myself. We did an awkward air hug since we weren’t sitting by each other. Then, a friendship was born.
Nicole, Page, and I stayed in the
ghetto outskirts of downtown Eugene in a “suite” *motel, but it was worth it for our wallets. So what if there were drug deals going on next door? We had each other.
We had amazing eats at a vegan friendly place called Laughing Planet. Then I made us go to Hayward Field so I could more clearly visualize where I’d be finishing the marathon. I could stand there all day looking at such a historical place. The Olympic trials are held here. Prefontaine ran here. I was going to run here! I was going to PR here!!
Day 2 (Saturday): We got invited to a shakeout run on Pre’s trails where I got to meet even more runners from Twitter! This is where I learned about #HugeEUG and met 20+ runners, Oiselle ambassadors, bloggers, and tweeps. Everyone was so friendly and excited for race day; the energy was contageous and I had to try hard to stick to my pre-race day 25 min run and not sprint ahead watching the trails go on and on and chatting it up with my new runner friends. Some were running the half marathon, and most that were running the full marathon were also trying to qualify for Boston. I was happy to have so many others sharing in the common goal of Boston 2014, and I also secretly decided I wanted to become an Oiselle ambassador. (I guess the secret’s out now.) These girls are inspiring.
After I cleaned the dirt off my teeth from the trail running, Nicole, Page, and I dined at a vegetarian cafe for our biggest meal of the day. YUM. I was having a lot of success eating vegan in Eugene which was very important to me. I eat vegan 90% of the time and was focusing on #EatingCleanUntilEugene. We did some quick shopping and rested our legs in our lovely living establishment before heading to the expo.
We met even more twitter peeps here! We signed a poster giving Boston love, took more pics, and I got a smokin’ deal on some hot pink PRO Compression calf sleeves to wear post marathon.
We went back to the room and were off our feet again. I was trying to stay extremely calm and relaxed. I’ve made the mistake before race day before where I let nerves and anxiety get the best of me and/or walked around way too much. Not worth it. This was a much better plan. We had dinner at a terrible vegan place (first food fail of the trip), but I managed to eat bread, soup, and a little pasta. We went to Hayward Field one more time to play around on the track near the finish line. I had a quick convo with my coach and my super supportive bf Jeremy before bed. I actually got a good night’s sleep on race eve.
Day 3: RACE DAY!!!
I woke up feeling calm yet excited. (I kid you not.) I went through my planned prerace routine and played some music in the hotel room to pump us up. Little did I know, Page was keeping herself extra calm in order to keep Nicole and me calm. Sneaky Page…Thank you – it worked!! We got to the race site on the first shuttle bus and had time to take pics, use the bathroom, and check our gear. We said hello to the gals we had met at the shakeout run. Then, we got in our corrals. It was time!!
We paid our respects to Boston with a moment of silence and listened to the national anthem. I moved closer to Nicole and the 3:35 pacer. It was crowded. Corrals A & B took off. It was time for us to get walked up to the start line. Then it was GO TIME!!!!!
Plan: warm-up 8:05-8:10 min/miles
Actual: Check. Stayed with the pacer during this time so I didn’t have to think too much about pushing through the sea of people all hugging onto the pacer like he was their boyfriend. You cannot have 30 girlfriends, dude, so something has got to give! I wasn’t necessarily bothered by the crowds because it was all very exciting, but my plan wasn’t to stick with him.
Plan: drop to sub 8:00 min/miles
Actual: I looked for Nicole to say goodbye since our race plans diverged at this point but couldn’t find her and had to run ahead. It felt great to get in front of the congested pacing group and stop getting elbowed by all the other eager runners also trying to qualify. I had a hard time finding my groove and settling into the right pace, however, and my watch was alllll over the place. I turned to look over my shoulder at mile 4 when I felt someone behind me, and it was the 3:35 pacer! Ahhhh! I screamed inside. He looked like the terminator or like Craig Alexander with dark sunglasses and a straight look on his face. Goodbye pacer! I took off and got on track with my correct pace around mile 5. I enjoyed the scenery and crowd support and skipped the crowded aid stations since I had a handheld water bottle.
Milestone #1: Quick 10k split of 49:17! I went down memory lane and thought about how far I had come as a runner. My first 10k I raced was the Bolder Boulder in 2005 where I missed my personal sub 1 hour goal and came in around 1:03 with bloody toenails bc I didn’t know how to shop for proper running shoes. Remembering this, I gave myself a silent cheer and smiled on the inside. (I don’t know if I ever smiled on the race course until mile 26…l seriously look miserable in all my race pics until that point!) Mile 8 was an unexpected hill. I just kept going with the flow of the crowd and didn’t bother to look at my watch because I was giving out enough effort already. Around 1:11 on my watch I decided toss my new handheld water bottle into the crowd and shouted “anyone want a free water bottle?” It felt good to have nothing in my hands anymore, but I was grateful to have avoided aid stations for 1/3 of the course. I felt light, free, and happy to be running.
Plan: Drop to sub 7:55 pace
Actual: I hit this pace for several miles, but allowed my pace to shift slightly as my energy shifted throughout the morning. (Coach also gave me this tip.) I also considered this my next mental chunk of the race. I remember coach saying that if I could get through the first 14 miles feeling good/like it was easy, I’d be in good shape. Sooo I kept taking inventory. Was I feeling good? Was this easy? Sorta. I mean how “easy” is running a 7:55 min/mile anyway? I kept that in perspective and kept running.
Enter first setback: My Left IT band started giving me grief around mile 9, and it hurt with every left step. I kept thinking, ok it’s not THAT bad…I can run through this. And as the pain continued I thought, this IT band will NOT be the death of me!! To give you some history, my hips/IT bands and feet have given me grief over the past few months of marathon training (and part of Ironman training), and I had to take extra rest days and get several ART treatments because of my “issues”. (I refuse to call them injuries.) I knew how bad it could get because I came out of one of my long training runs in tears two months prior, but I tried not to think about it. Pain is temporary.
Around mile 9 I settled in with a group of runners and focused on pacing off this skinny/buff woman for a few miles until mile 11 clocked in at 7:39 pace….Did I mention I was never supposed to go faster than 7:45 pace during this race? OOPS. I backed off and never saw that woman again. I’m sure she finished strong!
Milestone #2: Half marathon PR of 1:44:38! My last half marathon was a 1:51:51 a couple years ago. Like my 10k victory, I celebrated and did a dance party on the inside. (I’d like to think that “Harlem Shake” was playing at this point, but I can’t be sure.)
Miles 15-18 were difficult for me. My IT band pain was steadily increasing and I was letting out audible groans from the pain. I thought about stopping to stretch but knew that would be a bad idea because I probably wouldn’t be able to start running again. The were various small uphills which irritated it and then a awkward wooden step I had to take to get up on a small bridge which reallllly hurt it. Stupid IT band. I tried to think about something else. I remember Trevor telling me to “dream big” while I was racing, but I wasn’t quite in the mood and went back to staring at all the spectators since that was an easier distraction.
Plan: Give it all I’ve got! Pick up pace to 7:45 if possible…or be ok with maintaining…or slowing…These miles will be HARD.
Actual: hahahaha I wish my body wanted to go that fast! Luckily I had built up a nice cushion with those earlier miles so it was ok to hit some slower paces. I felt surprisingly good on mile 19 and smiled when I saw mile 20. The miles felt like they were flying by. I’d see a mile marker, visit the aid station, look at my watch and be halfway through a mile, see the next mile, and repeat. I remember thinking that this was a benefit to being a faster runner – the miles literally go by faster! (Ok obviously not an epiphony, but it felt like one after 3 hours of continuous running.)
I started taking sips of Gatorade at each aid station and washed them down with water. I remember volunteers cheering me on for “double-fisting” my way through the aid stations, which I did earlier as well w/ 2 cups of water per station. I can’t even begin to tell you how much Gatorade I got up my nose or how many times I choked on it and was gasping for air and coughing like a sick person. Drinking from dixie cups while running takes practice. I was getting sloppy but didn’t care as long as I kept moving.
Miles 21-23 were my slowest of the day, and my watch wouldn’t let me forget that. At one point I looked at my Clif Bar pacing bracelet that shows what time you should be at what mile, and I was worried that the 3:35 pacer was going to catch me again. I noticed I was getting passed by several people for the first time on the course. I remember thinking that was too bad…After about 1 mile of that nonsense, I changed my mindset and willed myself to start pacing off those that were passing me. No more getting passed if I could help it! So, I followed on the heels of the next girl that passed me, and I held onto her for as long as I could before letting her go. I silently thanked her for keeping me going, and then picked someone else to follow. This continued until I met my final pacer of the day: Jill. Two girls overtook me between miles 23-24, and I immediately got on their tails. One girl kept looking over her shoulder since I was ridiculously close to her until I said, “sorry – I’m pacing off you” to which she replied “oh it’s ok. I just thought you wanted to pass us.” I asked “Are you trying to qualify for Boston?” Jill said “Yes”. I said “me too.” The three of us were pushing ahead towards a common goal of sub 3:35 finish. (They appeared to be under 35 years old to me.) This. Was. Hard. My body wanted to slow down, but mentally I was not going to let that happen. I was SO CLOSE to the finish! I was ready for my BQ! Jill’s friend said she couldn’t sustain that pace anymore and let us go ahead at which point Jill formally introduced herself to me. Mile 25 we clocked in at a 7:49 min pace! Where did all that energy come from!? That was my second fastest mile of the race. I couldn’t believe it. My body still had fuel in the tank, and I was so happy to learn that. (Did I mention I wasn’t even thinking about my IT band pain anymore after mile 20? It’s incredible what the mind can do.)
Something very random and distracting happened sometime just before mile 26. Jill and I were running in the open field on the trail, past a backstop/fence nearby when voices shouted “HEADS!!!” and a big yellow ball came flying towards us. It bounced in front of Jill and hit her in the torso! We both lost our stride and got separated at that point. Note to race officials: Don’t let kids play ball on the marathon course. Someone could get hurt! You’re really not thinking quickly enough to dodge a ball. It even hurts to do simple math at mile 25.
When I saw the mile 26 mile marker I revealed my first huge grin of the race. I WAS SO HAPPY. I calculated I had approximately 11 minutes to finish that mile and still break my BQ goal of 3:35 so I relaxed and focused on enjoying my final moments of the race. The full and half marathoners regrouped on the final stretch into Hayward Field which I didn’t realize at the time (because I had gotten stupid from running for so long), and I remember wondering why I was passing so many people that were walking that close to the finish line…I was actually passing half marathoners. The street was lined with spectators cheering for us. I looked for Page. I had written about this moment in my race plan, and it was actually happening!
I found Page and Nicole SCREAMING for me and jumping up and down, cheering me on to the entrace of Hayward Field where I would run my final steps of those 26.2 miles. I couldn’t contain my excitement and I smiled and waved and smiled and waved to them over and over like a grinning idiot. I was also very confused as to why Nicole was already at the finish line and couldn’t figure out when she had passed me. (You can read her race recap here .) Page told me to KICK IT to the finish line, but I remember thinking my legs were kinda tapped out so I probably didn’t kick it very much at all. My form was hunched and my gait was a bit off, but I was still running!
My final steps were a blur. I was so focused on looking at the race clock at the finish line that I missed the spectators and I missed seeing myself on the big screen TV. I wanted to pinch myself to make sure it was real – that I was really going to hit my goal time and qualify for Boston. I smiled as the race clock came into focus at 3:34:00 (gun time) which meant my 3:32:00 was accurate. I was going to do it! The announcer said my name as I approached the finish line, and I waved spirit fingers to everyone. (What is it with me and waving?!) I put my hands over my heart to pay my respect to Boston as I crossed the finish line.
Jeremy said he watched me online as I crossed the finish line and the look on my face went from joy to pain in a split second. Off camera, 60 seconds later, I burst into tears on the side rail as I attempted to stretch. I was overcome with so many emotions for reaching my goal. I was also overcome with pain and couldn’t walk. My hips had closed up the second I stopped. In tears, I shuffled to the medical tent where they rubbed ice on me and calmed me down. Then, after wrapping me in ice packs, a volunteer escorted me to the food so I could continue my recovery process.
I wanted to get out of there ASAP so I could be reuinted with Nicole & Page, but I was slow going. After I got wrapped in several more ice packs, I finally found them for hugs and story swapping. When they saw I could hardly walk, they helped me take off my shoes and get into the ice bath. Still ecstatic but in pain, I couldn’t believe how fast and far I’d just run. It felt surreal. (My body could believe it, however. I couldn’t walk normal for a few days!)
One week later, I can still hardly believe it. Looking back on my past experiences, I have grown so much as a runner and fall in love with the sport more and more with each race. I can’t wait to see where running takes me next!
Thank you for hanging in there until the end of this very long post! 🙂
Which race should I sign up for next!?
For Reference – My Mile Splits: