Saturday, 11 May 2013

Race Report – Portland Marathon 2012 (October 2012)

First off, Leah and I always enjoy the amazing food, books, shopping, coffee, and all ‘round creativity that are intrinsic to Portland culture. Signing up for a marathon road trip there on a long weekend was a no-brainer. There was also a strong contingent of Vancouver runners fromGreg's marathon clinic signed up which made it even more fun. 
I needed this race to go well. While I'm still a novice marathoner, my first three marathons had me feeling like the "Blow Up" Kid. I would train well but have the wheels come off in the race around 30km's every time. Finally, all the factors I've been working on in the latest training cycle seem to have clicked.

We booked a little late and it was a busy weekend, so ended up in a cheap hotel across the river from downtown. It was rundown but reasonably clean. All good. (Fortunately the streetcar that kept us up all night was also the one that dropped us a couple blocks from the marathon start line downtown).  

Race morning the train was stuffed-to-overflowing with hyper, excited runners (Leah’s own personal hell :)). Apparently there were a lot of us out-of-towner’s staying across the bridge.

Met up with Melissa at the starting area in Coral B about half an hour before the 7am start. We were both aiming to pick up the 3:30 pace bunny (turns out they're pace Lizards in Portland!). We both agreed to ease into the race slowly (as we’d been used to in our training) and then pick up the pace and reel in the pacer once we were warmed up.

We maintained an easy pace and slowly picked up as planned. Melissa kept us on track with her pace band (the one thing I forgot!). “We’re a minute behind…” “…now only 30 seconds behind…” We finally picked up the 3:30 Lizard nearing half way. It was nice to pick up with the group and ease into the rhythm. The pace felt comfortable and I knew the big hill up to the bridge was coming up soon. The pacer held us back a bit on the hill (17 miles), encouraging us not to burn out, a long way still to go. Smart pacing as we could make back the time on the flat sections.

I was feeling great at this point, even holding myself back. I decided to stick with the pack and reassess by 20 miles. If I was feeling good I might try and pull ahead. (My main goal was a strong 3:30 finish so better to stick it out steady than risk pulling ahead and blowing up). After the bridge there were still some rolling neighbourhoods to get through, so not entirely flat.

By 20 miles I was feeling great, keeping with the pacer comfortably. Decided it was still better to stay on pace and the pacer also mentioned there was a good downhill coming up. I think it was N. Greeley Ave. from 22 to 23 miles where the course dropped quite a bit. It was starting to get warm but fortunately there was a bit of tree cover if you stuck to the edge of the road. I was still feeling good so decided with 3 miles left to surge ahead a bit.  

By 24 miles I was wondering if this had been a good idea, but I knew this was the last push and, regardless, it was gonna hurt. (Keep your eye on the prize, man). A little climb on to the Broadway Bridge just past 24 and I held my pace back a bit to conserve. Across the bridge into downtown and see the 40km marker. At this point, as usual, there was not a lot of conscious thought but rather just sheer force of will to keep the legs moving. I was still pacing well and the 3:30 group hadn’t passed me so I knew I was on track. It was great to see Pargol running strong only a few blocks from the finish and to get a cheer from Kristine who was unfortunately sidelined this race.

I didn’t have a sprint left in me for the finish but I kept on pace to cross the line in 3:27:58! A full 17 minutes better than my previous best time. Pargol and Melissa crossed the line close behind me and we filled ourselves with well-deserved sustenance and celebrated another marathon finish.

Several factors came together for me to make it a successful race.
-          Came into the race without injury.
-          Weather was near perfect (couple degrees cooler woulda been fine, too)
-          Good (and patient) pacing (thanks Melissa and Red Lizards!)
-          Reasonably flat course
-          Some great advice via Kirsty to increase my calorie intake and hydration during the race
(which also worked well at my first 50k race in July).
-          Focus on nutrition both during and post-run recovery. (Converted to a fully plant-strong diet,   including morning green smoothies and Vega shakes).
-          First marathon in Brooks Pure Flow shoes... comfortable all race, not a blister in sight.
-          Ran the whole race, didn’t require walk breaks

Finish time: 3:27:58
Halfway: 1:44:42 (Negative split)
M 40-44: 68 out of 494
In last 6 miles, passed 158 people, was passed by 1.

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