The coaching staff at Portland Fit very strongly emphasized that we should not try to run the 21-mile training run at our hoped-for marathon pace, but at a minute to two minutes slower per mile, or well into our aerobic zone, whatever that means. (OK, I kind of know what it means. I just don’t know exactly what heart rate it corresponds to for me, since I’ve been unwilling to pony up $100 for the VO2MAX testing it would take to find out.) Normally, I’d ignore this sort of well-intentioned advice, but they were really making it sound like you would be a lot better off for the marathon in three weeks if you didn’t kill yourself now, so I did my best. I kept my heart rate under 82% of my max the whole time, which meant I hardly felt like I was working at all, and ended up running miles between 9:30 and 11:15 or so. Although those 11+ minute miles also involved stopping at a lot of pedestrian crosswalks, so it’s not as bad as it sounds. My new shoes gave me a little foot trouble, especially in my left foot, where I was feeling a seam dig into my inner arch, which I think caused me to compensate and run a little funny on that foot, leading to a mild blister on my index toe (is that a real term?) and a bit of stiffness and pain in the ball of my foot. Other than that, the new shoes seemed to work well, so perhaps some strategic foot taping will do the trick.
Despite the mild discomfort, I did throw in an extra mile along the way. Boo-ya, I ran 22 miles, how you like me now? :-) Well, it’s pretty good for a guy who, nine months ago, had never ran more than a mile or so at a time.
Our route covered most of the actual Portland Marathon course, which is a good thing, since I’m utterly unfamiliar with the North Portland parts of it. Since we start in NW Portland, we skipped the first six or seven miles of the course and ran them at the end. And to shorten the route down to our training distance, we skipped a five-mile out-and-back along the north part of Naito Avenue. Rather, after a brief wiggle around the starting neighborhood in NW Portland, we headed out St. Helens Road toward the St. John’s Bridge. Then up the approach road (this moderate hill comes at mile 17 of the actual marathon, by which time I can see why it’s a bit more imposing) and across Portland’s lovely suspension bridge. Until this run, I don’t think I’ve ever been on the St. John’s — certainly not on foot, and I don’t think in a car, either.
After the bridge, the route returns to downtown via Willamette and Greely avenues, the first quite flat for quite a long time and the second nicely downhill. Some weaving around through the pedestrian-unfriendly north Rose Quarter parts of town, and we finally cross the Steel Bridge. We crossed on the lower deck, though the real marathon does not. I got a long rest there — just as I got to it, the lower deck was raised, waiting for a (slow) boat to go through. Rather than take a detour, I used the time to have a snack, fiddle with my shoes, and find something I wanted to listen to on my MP3 player. “It’s not a race, it’s a training run.”
Then we went south along the west side waterfront, up Harrison (a nasty little climb that actually comes toward the very start of the marathon), and out Barbur until its intersection with Front. That’s pretty much a 180° turn, heading back toward downtown again. Along the way we do one street crossing through this under-street tunnel. If you’ve ever spent time in the New York City subways, this tunnel brings back a flood of urine-soaked memories.
Back along the waterfront, then. As I approached the Steel Bridge, I decided I was going to do my extra mile, so instead of continuing up Front, I did an out-and-back across the lower bridge deck (no boat this time!) and along the east waterfront esplanade. Finally, we finished up the run along roads I’ve become very, very familiar with over the last six months.
Soreness: pretty severe at first. But I was walking ok later that day and never came close to wanting a pain pill, so that’s all right. I did — shudder — take my first-ever cold-water bath, after I got home. They say taking an ice bath (I wasn’t brave / sore enough to try it with real ice!) improves recovery a lot, by reducing swelling and increasing blood flow. I say it’s a practical joke they like to pull on the newbies! It was, of course, agony. Just because you’ve run a long way and are feeling sore, that doesn’t somehow make it any easier to sit in a frigid tub of water. But, moaning and chattering the whole time, I stayed in about 15 minutes. I have no idea if it helped.