Race Report: 2012 Eugene Marathon

May 1, 2012

My training was compromised for this race. Even before I broke my toe, I had a long bout of Plantar Fasciitis. Then the toe took me totally out of running for six weeks, so I started building up again from scratch in early February. I did manage to do two 20-mile runs, but my weekly mileage was mostly under thirty, and my speed never recovered.
Then I had a heck of a week leading up to the race:

  1. The Sunday before, the toenail on that toe I broke came off. (This would be the one on my left big toe.) I may have wiggled it off a little before it was ready, but I thought that would be better than having it fall off during the marathon. Little did I realize how wounded the nail bed was underneath! Either the original wound under there never healed up (after four months?) or my continued running kept re-injuring the area. I would have some bleeding during most training runs, but I was chalking that up to a loose toenail shifting around and cutting the skin or something. Instead it turned out to be a good-sized moist and inflamed horror of a wound under there. It didn’t hurt much, but would that be true for 26 miles?
  2. The next evening after I laid down in bed I started to feel an all-too familiar feeling in my lower back: I was experiencing a kidney stone. It would be my third such incident in 11 years. Once I was sure what it was, I figured the marathon was not to be — I’d be on painkillers and in no shape for anything physical for several days. This time turned out different though. We headed for the emergency room as the pain was peaking. By the time we got there, it was already starting to subside. Three hours, one I.V. bag, and a CAT scan later, we had a confirmed diagnosis of a three millimeter stone almost out already and no pain or irritation whatsoever left. It didn’t bother me again.
  3. I had some painful sciatica most of the week, leaving me hobbling around in pain and further psychologically demoralized.

For most of the week, then, I was telling people that I might or might not run it, depending on how I felt as race day approached. It wasn’t until Friday that I made up my mind to go. We headed down to Eugene on Saturday and stayed the night with my mom as usual. I had a pretty big pizza dinner, then slept well the night before.

What perfect weather we had! It wasn’t cold at the start and it never got too hot. The sun peeked out a little but it was mostly cloudy.

A friend of mine was running his first marathon and I had offered to pace him. He thought he could run about a 3:40. He didn’t want me pacing him until the bitter end if he started slowing down, but we agreed to run together as long as he was hitting his splits. This was a great plan until I was unable to locate him at the start line. It seems like Eugene is getting more crowded every year… There were a few rounds of fruitless phone- and texting-tag which led me to believe he was still in the bathroom lines as the race was starting, but I couldn’t be sure.

I spent the first two miles of the race kind of sweeping the area between the 3:45 and 3:35 pacers, looking for him. I didn’t have any luck, so when I passed our families on the sidelines around mile two, I stopped and asked if they had seen him. They had not. I waited with them for a while, looking for him to pass. Some seemed shocked by this — what happened to ultra-competitive Scott?  Eventually my friend’s parents spotted him and pointed him out to me. I quickly caught up to him and found that we were a little behind the 3:45 pacer. We slowly inched our way past.

It was fun running through South Eugene with my friend, pointing out the personal landmarks — my elementary school, the house I grew up in, etc. My “pacing” mostly consisted of telling him he was running a little too fast and holding him back, especially down the gentle hills. I think I did a pretty good job of it — we came through the half marathon at almost exactly 1:50. I told him banking time when you’re still feeling good almost never pays off, and that even splits are the best way to go. I still think it’s true.

Near mile 17 my friend’s breathing was getting labored and we were starting to slow down. I was still feeling pretty good. My toe wasn’t a problem. We talked about our plan once more and we parted ways. I sped up to a pace somewhere under eight minutes a mile. Up until then, we’d been doing around 8:24. Even at the faster speed, I was still having fun. Miles 17-20 were all pretty easy feeling. It didn’t hurt that I was passing so many people. I thought I would try to catch up to the 3:35 pace group.

After mile 21, my left thigh stiffened up a lot. I could feel the tight muscles pulling on my kneecap as well. At last my poor training volume was coming into play. I could feel the leg get better when I shortened my stride and slowed down a bit, and worse when I sped up. I had no real motivation to kill myself, so I tried to maintain a speed below the tightness threshold. That turned out to be just a few seconds slower than eight minute miles.

My other problem was that I really hadn’t tied my shoes tight enough, and my right foot (not the one with the nail-free toe) was sliding around too much. I was getting some pain from a couple of the nails. In the end, I think they were just digging into the toe a bit; they hurt a lot after the race but healed almost completely by the next day. It’s a tricky balance, tying the shoe — too loose around the ankle and this happens, too tight and your whole foot gets bruised.

I never did catch that 3:35 pacer.

I had a few sips of PBR from the unofficial beer aid station at mile 24 (briefly chastising them for the poor choice) and carried on toward the finish. As always, that last lonely mile on the inaccessible bike path before you get back to the streets was a test. This year I passed.

Heading into Hayward field for the finish was fun, as always. With twenty yards left, I looked over to my right and saw some guy trying to pass me! This could not stand. I ratcheted up my speed and left him behind. What a jerk. (Him, or me? You decide.) I finished in 3:36. My finishing photo is not too bad if you ignore the weird angle of my trailing foot.

Once done, I found myself relatively mobile — those right-side toenails were the biggest problem. I had a chocolate milk and a banana in the recovery area, then I found my people in the stands just as my friend was finishing. He did great! I was worried that he would really fade, but he pulled out a 3:45.

Our families had a combined victory lunch later at one of our usual spots, Marché in the Fifth Street Market. I had my hamburger and two excellent Bulleit Rye Manhattans. Because I am a dork, I wore my race shirt and finisher’s medal.

I’m quite happy with this race. I had a lot of fun, and feel re-motivated to keep training and run some fast marathons again soon.

Official results: 3:36:37 (8:16/mile avg pace). 570th/2346 finishers. 447th/1281 men, 78th/205 men 40-44.


Geez, I’m running a marathon tomorrow!

June 18, 2011

That’s right! Sunday! Sunday! SUNDAY! One day only! Your faithful blogger will be running in the Inaugural Zeroth Annual Vancouver USA 26.2 mile marathon!

Starting around seven in the morning Vancouver, Washington time, you can track me live on a little map here. Which will be awesome.

I’m not going into this with any fixed time goals; I’m just going to see how it goes. Just lying around on the couch a couple of days ago, I got a terrible cramp in my calf, so actually running 26 miles should be great.


Race Report: 2010 Eugene Marathon

May 2, 2010

Marathon number five. My best so far was 3:28:55 at Portland seven months ago, but each one I’ve done has been about 10 minutes faster than the one before it. My goal was 3:20:59, which would qualify me for Boston 2011. That’s a 7:40 per mile average pace, give or take a few hundredths of a second. My race plan was to hit 7:38 miles for the first 22 and try to speed up from there. Even though 7:38 sounds awful fast to me, I knew my training should support it and that this was actually a fairly conservative plan, not that different from Eugene 2008 when I broke four hours.

The weather was beautiful. My throw-away jacket and gloves were barely needed, since it was already in the mid-40s at 6am. Sweetie gave me the jacket months ago — an old zip-up hoodie — and I have to admit I barely glanced at it until this weekend, when I finally saw it had “BOSTON” in big letters across the front. She’d gotten it on a trip there years ago. Kismet.

Sweetie and Mom dropped me off near the starting area with plenty of time to spare, and I quickly dropped off my bag (holding little more than an old cell phone) and used a portable toilet. That still left me 40 minutes until the race start, during which time I mostly just stood around. With 15 minutes left to go, I headed to the toilet lines again… but they were crazy long. I think the organizers dropped the ball when it came to securing enough starting-area toilets. They said they had about 8000 people there (most of them doing the half-marathon), up from around 5000 last year. I guess they misjudged.

Anyway, I didn’t have to pee that bad, so I got back into the starting area. Up near the 7:30/mile pace area, things weren’t actually too crowded. A couple of minutes before seven, I got rid of my jacket and gloves. After a pretty good rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the race was off. Being so far up, it only took about 20 seconds to get across the start line. This year we started south, avoiding some silly little curves and hills that the course used to have.

I felt some nerves during the first mile. Would my knee be OK? Could I really keep up the pace 26 miles? Would I regret not getting to pee again? I tried to force the worries aside and focus on running smoothly, easily, and without dodging all over the place through the first-mile masses. I finished mile one in 7:36. (All of the mile splits I’m going to give are off my Garmin’s idea of how far I’d gone, not off the course mile markers — but for the most part they actually agreed pretty closely. For once.)

In my hand I carried a Ziploc bag holding five or six fun-sized Milky Way bars (unwrapped) and one little bag of Clif Shot Bloks. The Shot Bloks were a goodie-bag freebie, and they weren’t caffeinated. Neither was any of the other on-course food (or “food”, or “fuel”, or whatever you want to call sugary race goop) I had along the way. I’m pretty sure this was my first marathon-or-longer race without caffeine, ever.

Miles two and three passed by in 7:36 and 7:37. I passed by my cheering section toward the end of mile three. I was feeling all right, I guess. The pace felt easy enough, but I had no picture of how the day was going to go. I was a little ways back from the 3:20:00 pace group, but I had my Garmin and I knew they were out a few seconds per mile fast, so that didn’t worry me. I needed to run my own race.

Mile four passed by my old elementary school but I was too focused to even remember to glance that way. Or maybe I was just in a fog. Or maybe I got distracted by the guy who just stopped by the side of the road to take a leak, with only a telephone pole to screen him. I’m just not that kind of guy. Some girls sounded a little jealous that guys can do that, though. 7:37 for mile four.

Mile five went up a little hill and past the house I grew up in. 7:34, a little fast. My pace isn’t really as dead-even as these splits make it seem, anyway. I’m always looking at my Garmin’s “Lap Pace” display, which tells me the average pace I’ve run since the start of the last mile. If I’m getting toward the end of a mile and it’s way too fast, I can just slow down for a bit and make it “right.” Of course, I don’t want to do it that way — I want nice even pacing. I don’t think I saw the watch say anything under 7:30 or over 7:50 too often.

I started feeling more settled in during miles six and seven — 7:38, 7:35 on a gentle downhill. It was pretty unclear in this section if we had the whole road or just one lane to run in. I used the whole road to run the tangents, but I was the only one I saw to do that. If we were supposed to have just the one lane, though, they didn’t have anywhere near enough cones or markings. I ran past Sweetie and Mom again near the end of mile seven. They headed off to breakfast and would see me again around mile 18.

Mile eight was through Amazon Park. The path wasn’t too crowded around my pace, but I’m guessing that with 5000 people things got a little tight behind me. Hey, Eugene Marathon: switch to Amazon Parkway next year, OK? 7:36.

The crowd at the mile eight marker by South Eugene High was big, but not as noisy or high-fiving as in years previous. A disappointment, that. During mile nine you climb the most visually obvious hill on the course, though it’s debatable if it’s actually the longest or steepest. Whether or not it is, though, the 3:20 pace-setter slowed waaaay down for it and I slipped past him on the way up. The uphills seemed easy. That’s a good thing, right? 7:37 for mile nine. Mile 10 was back through the start area, in the other direction. Another 7:37.

Miles 11 and 12 had us running out on Franklin Boulevard, headed for Glenwood and Springfield. This was a route change this year; we used to go on paths along the north bank of the river more. The new route is a lot less scenic (Glenwood in particular is a bleakly dreary business district) but I think it is faster, despite having to get over an overpass and a slightly elevated bridge. Then again, I was loving the hills. I’d maintain my pace and pass a bunch of people on every uphill; the same people would pass me on the way back down. The weather had me worried through Glenwood, though: we were getting full sun. Overheating or dehydration could quickly ruin me. I rooted for the clouds to win out. Yet another 7:37, followed by a 7:36.

Miles 13, 14 and 15 were through Springfield. Springfield, if you don’t know, is to Eugene as Vancouver, WA is to Portland OR, or as Sparks, NV is to Reno. I can’t even remember how I was feeling through here. Maybe I was in “the zone.” I grabbed a little cupful of honey at the “Liquid Gold” station and got some of it down my throat and lots of it all over my left hand. The hand would remain sticky for quite a long time after that. At the very end of mile 15 we had to get across an I-5 overpass; the short but steep hill could have been a tester, but I was still finding it easy. 7:37, 7:37, 7:37. Monotonous,  isn’t it? That’s the idea.

The weather improved; more cloud cover rolled in. For the rest of the day it was generally cloudy, with the occasional sun-break.

Mile 16: Uh, yeah, 7:37. Mile 17: 7:54.

7:54!?

Don’t panic, it’s just that I finally did something about that missed bathroom opportunity at the start. I think it took me about 40 seconds and I made up about 20 seconds of that over the rest of the mile. The mile 17 mile marker found us in Alton Baker park near the Ferry Street bridge. They had a little course re-reroute in here, winding around the little lake instead of sticking to the straight path by the river. I’m not sure if it was because of bad pavement or just to add a few extra yards.

Mile 18 was along the river: 7:36. Since the bathroom break, I was once again trailing the 3:20 pace group, but slowly gaining on them. I saw Sweetie and Mom shortly into mile 19, in front of the Valley River Inn. For most of the rest of mile 19, I was stuck in the pace group, which took up the whole path in a big clump. I tried to be patient for a while, but when they stayed at 7:42 for too long, I knew I just had to get around. I should have been just a little more patient. I made a passing move in the dirt along the path, and tripped on the edge getting back on. One stumbling step, two, and I was back in balance and none the worse for wear, but it was a close thing and I should have been smarter. Oh well. Mile 19: 7:37.

As we started into mile 20, I found myself starting to pass people. A lot of them were people I remembered from near the beginning of the race. I rubbed my hands together and told them “revenge is a dish best served cold.” OK, no, that last part didn’t happen. But it was kind of nice to see so many people suddenly falling off their pace. At the end of mile 20 they had a timing pad up and a guy overseeing it.

I called to him, “Yeah! Halfway there.”

He said “Yep” then half a beat later said “wait, you’re way more than halfway…”

As I ran past I shouted back “Nope! That was halfway, right there, don’t tell me it isn’t!”

It really does feel that way. I got through mile 20 in 7:33 and had just six point two miles left to go — but those last six point two miles seem like the whole race. I assessed my condition:

  • I wasn’t feeling drained, depleted, or bonky. Last year, I’d started feeling that way around mile 16 and had really just hung on the rest of the way
  • My quads and my right glute were painful. Well, what do you expect after beating them up for a few miles?
  • Knee? No problem at all. Back, shoulders, abs, digestion, hydration? All good!
  • Mentally, I felt ready to face the pain and keep going. I could start to picture myself  finishing this thing and meeting my goals.

So I decided to push the pace and stop letting my Garmin tell me how fast I could run. Instead, I focused on passing whoever was ahead of me. Slowly, one by one, I reeled them in. It hurt, but it was kind of fun too. Way more fun than other mile 21’s and 22’s have been, anyway. 7:28, 7:30.

I kept it up. Pushing the pace rather than letting the race push me around definitely made the miles seem to go by faster. Pass, pass, pass — I felt like a shark out there. Mile 23: 7:25. I ran by my cheering section one last time. Sweetie was excited that I was ahead of the 3:20 group and I told her that I was feeling strong.

Mostly strong anyway. My legs were really starting to hurt. I hoped they wouldn’t suddenly give out. I’m not a cramper, but maybe this would be my day. But I didn’t really think about backing off the pace. Pick a target runner in front; pass them; repeat. Mr. Ironman Shirt? Pass. Mr. Crazy Running tights? Pass. Ms. I’m-So-Special-I-Have-a-Guy-on-a-Bicycle-Crewing-Me? Pass. I passed a couple of guys I didn’t know in Red Lizard shirts (Team Red Lizard is a local running club I’m technically a member of) and gave them each a big “Go Red Lizard” as I went by. Mile 24: 7:26. Mile 25: 7:29.

As you begin mile 26, the path gets lonely and the crowd support disappears. It’s one of the problems with the Eugene route. It didn’t bother me much this time though. I could taste my Boston Qualifying time. Top of the world, Ma! I kept motoring along, pushing it, pushing it. Soon I was back on the road and finishing up mile 26 in 7:24.

The stadium was in sight. Boston Qualifying was in the bag. I ran fast just for the pleasure of pushing myself. Heading through the gates, I yelled out “lets go!” to someone I was passing, hoping they’d race. (They didn’t.) The soft feel of the Hayward track gave me another gear, and with all of 200 yards left to go I started pumping an arm at the crowd and calling for more noise. I didn’t think Sweetie and Mom were going to have made it to the finish in time to see me, but then there they were, right at the start of the final straightaway. They’d make it with seconds to spare! I had one more gear in me for the last 75 yards, and sprinted all out. Looking up, I could see the clock showing 3:18:58.

Chip time: 3:18:26. 7:35/mile average pace. 278th/2333 total finishers; 236/1252 men; 55/225 men 35-39. See you in Boston in April 2011. :-) :-)


2010 Eugene Marathon: Goals and plan

April 30, 2010

I guess I usually end up posting something about what my goals are before a big race. Here they are for Sunday’s 2010 Eugene Marathon.

Goal “A+”: 3:18:00. That would be a 7:33/mile average pace, but I’d get there by running 7:38 for miles 1-22 and finding the power to pick up the pace for the last four miles. I’d have to pick it up to (hang on while I run off and do some math… ok, got it) 7:07/mile over those last four miles to pull this off.

Goal “A”: 3:20:00. A steady 7:38/mile pace the whole way.

Goal “B”: 3:20:59. “B” stands for “Boston.” 3:20:59 is what I need to run to qualify for the 2011 Boston Marathon. (That’s the time you need if you’ll be 40-45 years old on Boston Marathon day.) This has been my big goal for this race for a long time now. The extra 59 seconds let me slip down to a  7:39.94/mile average pace. Can you imagine the kind of heart attack I’ll be having on Sunday if it comes down to the difference between 7:39.94 and 7:40/mile?

Goal “C”: 3:28:55, my current marathon PR. Look, the truth is, I’ll be pretty crushed if I can’t beat that. I set that record seven months ago, on a harder course, with my training completely interrupted by runner’s knee. I had to skip my last long run and my knee hurt from mile nine to the finish line.

Goal “D”: Finish the race. It’s 26 miles. Respect the distance. A finish is a finish.

My race plan is pretty simple. I’m going to be a slave to my Garmin Forerunner and crank out mile after mile of 7:38s. I use the Garmin’s “autolap” feature to measure my miles and the number I pay the most attention to is my “lap pace”, which is the average pace I’ve run during the course of the current mile. It’s much more useful than the wildly varying “instantaneous” pace display, for this sort of pacing. Note that I use autolap and not the course mile markers, for a couple of reasons. Reason one: I’d never remember to hit the lap button every time I need to. Reason two: the pace the Garmin shows me is going to be based on its idea of the mileage anyway. That does mean there will be some slop;  the Garmin nearly always shows that you’ve run longer than 26.21 miles after a marathon.

I’ll break the race down into three phases. During miles 1-10, I’ll eat a lot and conserve energy. For miles 10-20, I’ll focus on consistency. For the last six miles I’ll give it everything I’ve got.


I want to waste away to nothing

January 21, 2010

I’ve seen a rule of thumb that says every extra pound you weigh adds about a minute to your marathon time. Although the exact speed gains are up for debate, I suppose it’s clear from basic principles that carrying less weight lets you go faster — assuming you lose the weight without impacting your leg muscles or cardiovascular system. I’m guessing that continuing to train while you lose the weight generally takes care of that caveat.

I’d really like to qualify for Boston in May and a few “free” minutes sounds pretty good to me now. Taking off ten pounds could make my task a lot easier. There are two downsides:

  1. I love to eat. I’m a foodie and a snacker.
  2. I already look skinny.

Number one doesn’t worry me too much. I embrace the challenge. Since I started running my weight had gone from the low 170s to about 160, and I have some experience with the sorts of behaviors that allow me to more that in a downward direction. First and foremost is weighing myself every morning and tracking the progress. Second is having a concrete goal: I’m doing it to run a 3:20 or better at the Eugene marathon. When I feel like snacking (which is all the time), I’ll tell myself that my hunger is the feeling of getting faster.

Number two. I’m about 156 to 160 pounds now, depending on when you weigh me and how accurate the scale is. At 5’9″, and depending on who you ask, the low end of the healthy weight range for me might be 135 pounds, or 150. My ideal running weight might be 133.  Or 125. There’s no shortage of conflicting ideas here. But I only want to lose 10 pounds and get down to 150. I’m comfortable that would still be a healthy weight for me. Which still leaves the problem of appearance. I carry all my fat jiggly bits in my torso, where they are typically hidden by clothing. My limbs and face already look pretty thin (or really thin, depending on who you ask). I know! I’ll just wear long sleeves and puff out my cheeks all the time. Problem solved.


Eugene Marathon 2010 route changes

December 29, 2009

The Eugene Marathon people have published their 2010 marathon route. They’ve made some significant changes from last year, most of which look like improvements. The big news that they’ve been trumpeting is that the race now finishes on the Hayward Field track. However, since it finished right outside Hayward last year, that alone doesn’t affect the route much. What else have they done?

  • The start is straightened out this year.

    Simplified the start. It’s hard to tell from the map, but I think (and hope) they have us starting headed south on Agate this year. They’ve gotten rid of the hilly and winding  jog over to Fairmount street this year, and instead have the race running straight down Agate for about three quarters of a mile after the start. That’s a very good thing.

  • Crossed the beams. To make up some length lost in straightening the start, probably, the route now turns right on Harris after running west on 24th. We take Harris north to 18th, and 18th west to Hilyard. It’s initially alarming to look at the map and see the route crossing itself like that, but even the slowest walkers should be past the crossing points by the time the leading runners come though seven miles later.
  • Smoothed out some stuff, but not all of it. Miles two through eleven are identical to last year. I’ve heard that the city has repaved the previously-quite-bumpy Amazon park bike path, though, which is nice. The route still looks like it has the same little twist and curb-up as it enters Amazon Park, though, which is unfortunate. I’m a little surprised they haven’t rerouted onto Amazon Parkway instead of using the bike paths.
  • Retooled the Springfield Section. This is a massive change. There is a lot less trail and a lot more road now in miles 11-16. The biggest improvement is that once the marathoners and half-marathoners split up, they never rejoin again. This was a big issue last year, with faster marathoners having to weave around slower half-marathoners on narrow bike paths. This year, the half-marathoners cross the Knickerbocker footbridge but the full race continues east on Franklin, eventually crossing the river over the Springfield Bridge. We head farther east into Springfield than in years past, then turn north and head up 8th and 7th to Centennial. And we stay on Centennial all the way back to Autzen Stadium and Alton Baker Park. There might be a bit of a hill getting over the Centennial overpass over I5. I’m definitely going to miss some of the riverside trails they’ve eliminated here. I think it’s almost certainly a faster route now, though.

    More roads, fewer bikepaths in Springfield

  • Left the finish alone. After Alton Baker park, the last nine miles are identical to last year. And that’s a good thing. These riverside bike paths are the emotional heart of this route.

About the new finish inside Hayward: Judging from where the “26” is on the map, it doesn’t look like we’ll get to run much on the track at the finish. It would have been nice to let us do 3/4 of a lap or something. Of course, in real life, by the time I get there, I won’t be able to care less about such little details.


One day later and I am very sore

October 5, 2009

I’m unbelievably sore today. My calves are tight and painful too, along with my thighs, even though I didn’t notice anything wrong my calves yesterday. I think my overall condition is as bad as it was after marathon #1. I guess that makes sense… you’re going to suffer more after those marathons in which you suffer enough during the race to have to slow down by the end. Another great reason to try for negative splits.