Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Oregon Marathon

When I started out on the Nike trail last January, I didn't think I would ever run more than a mile.  My first 5k was a big deal for me, and running a 15k a year later was insane.  I never ever ever thought I would run a half marathon.  In fact, even after signing up for the half marathon, I still was in disbelief.  Driving to the start line, I felt completely unprepared.  Yes, I ran 13 miles two weeks before-hand, but in those two weeks since running 13 miles, school had started for the kids and my "taper" to the race seemed more like a halt.  In the week leading up to my race, I ran a total of three miles.  That is hardly the distance you want to cover when you have to run 13.1 at the end of the week.

But there I was, at 6am, in a van with 5 other women, heading to Mt. Angel, Oregon to run my very first half marathon.  I was hoping to finish in 2 1/2 hours.  I figured I would finish in about 2:45.  It was a beautiful day for a run, and an awesome place to run.  The Oktoberfest was in full swing (at least, it would be by the time I finished), and the weather was unseasonably warm and dry for a mid-September weekend.  

When I signed up for the race, I signed up with Moms Run This Town, a nationwide, free running group.  Because we ended up having the biggest team registered, we won VIP status.  What this included was preferential parking, dedicated toilets, and a special VIP tent after the race, with food, juice and iced towels just for us.  Our bibs had VIP emblazoned on them, which made me feel pretty cool and elite, especially since I was probably going to finish after a few marathoners.

Our parking spot was awesome.  We didn't have to walk far to the start line or the bag check (Oh yeah, our bags were to be delivered to the VIP tent.  The peasants had to go ask for theirs at the finish line bag check).  I couldn't find a VIP toilet, though.  I was told that the VIP toilet would be at the finish line. 

I forgot to pack a banana to eat before the race.  I always eat a banana before I go for a long run.  I have no idea why I eat a banana, but it certainly seems to keep me going, so I have no need to change this routine.  I didn't think much about the fact that I had forgotten my banana, because every other race I have ever run has bananas at the starting line.

This one did not.

Yes, I had no banana.

The "900" Corral
Not only that, but I had to poop, and I don't particularly like port-a-potties.  I hopped on a line and waited for a while before I realized that the line of toilets in front of me were all locked.  Except for one.  No wonder there weren't so many people in this line and it wasn't moving quickly.  As I calculated the wait time for the other row of toilets, someone came up and unlocked the rest of the ones in front of me.  I was able to poop in a virgin toilet.  It was amazing.  I forgot to make sure my door was fully locked, and an unassuming runner opened up my door as I was in the middle of a grunt.  I think he was more embarrassed than I was.

Awesome Mother Runners!
A concept in racing that was new to me with this race is that of "corrals."  I had never heard this term before.  What they do is assign your bib number based on your estimated finish time.  You find people who have bib numbers near you, and hang out together at the starting line.  That way, when the race starts, all the people who expect to run the race in an hour and change won't mow down those who will do it in three times the time.

The half marathoners were led to the start-line of the half marathon, about 1/4 mile away.  We lined up on both sides of the street, creating a runner tunnel for the marathoners to run through.  We took photos of ourselves, photos of others, and then photos of the marathoners as they came through.  Then it was our turn.

Crazy Marathoners
 I wore my GoPro, using a "Chesty" mount (yes I kind of bought it because of the name) and set it up to take a photo every second.  I figured I could make a fun little time lapse movie.  I'm still trying to figure out how to make it, so you'll have to be patient with me because I may not get that posted for a while.  In the mean time, here are some photos of the course that were taken by the GoPro.

I was impressed with how well I did for the first half of the race.  I stayed in the 11mm range, even taking a pee break at mile 4.  I felt strong, fast, and very much like I could run all day like this.  I couldn't believe how well I was doing when I hit the 10k mark.  I was on target to finish well before the 2:30 goal, and because my playlist magically alphabetized itself, I was in the middle of a Tom Petty "R" set (who knew he had so many songs that begin with R?). 

And then I hit the wall.  At least, I think that's what I hit.  It's something runners say, and since I have a half marathon under my belt, I guess I can safely say that I'm a runner.  Anyway, I ran mile nine with my eyes closed.  Not all of it.  I opened my eyes every now and again to make sure I was still on course and not about to run into someone.  I wracked my brain, trying to figure out why I was feeling so sluggish, and then I remembered.  No banana. 

At 9.3 miles, because I had to at least run as far as my longest race before walking, I walked.  It was only until the end of the song, which may or may not have been Sunday, Bloody Sunday.  I didn't feel bad that I was walking.  Other people were walking.  Some of them had recently passed me.  I planned on passing them back when I was ready to run again. 

Janet and Erin
And I did run again, because I knew that there would be electrolyte drinks at mile 10.  I ran to the aid station and stopped to grab a cup of the orange liquid.  I braced myself, expecting something sweet and syrupy like gatorade.  I was so pleasantly surprised that it tasted more like salt water.  A almost turned back to get a second drink.

Even with the electrolyte drink, my body was pretty much done.  I ran some and walked some for the next mile.  I ran through a covered bridge at some point, and thought that was cool, but mostly, I was calculating how many more miles I had to run, and how long I could walk and keep my pace above 11:30. 

I lost feeling in the toes of my right foot and had tremendous pain in the ball of that foot every time my foot hit the pavement.  I thought that maybe I would be walking through that finish line.  I wondered how long it would take for Janet to catch up, and if she would drag me across.  I considered hanging around for the crew pushing Andie, and hoping in her chair for the last little bit.  All of these options sounded great in my head.

And then, like the happy, motivating angel that she is, Mariah showed up.  Mariah is one of the leaders of my chapter of Moms Run This Town.  She's amazing, super fast, and always so up-beat.  We both ran in the Portland Trail Series this summer, and a couple times she ran me in to the finish line.  It was a giant ego boost to keep up with someone who can sustain a sub 8 minute pace for more than three minutes.
Mariah offers encouragement

"You have a mile and a half to go!" she shouted to me.  I went into self-defense mode and told her about my foot pain - my excuse for being caught walking, and walking slowly.  We gave high fives, she told me I could do it, and since Mariah said so, I started running again.

When I hit the aid station at mile twelve, I couldn't feel my toes and I sucked down the last bit of water in my camelbak.  If I wanted to hydrate, I had to make it to the finish line.

The course made its way back into town.  Little kids stood on the street corners holding signs and cheering us on.  I forgot about my toes, the mileage and my thirst.  I was happy again, and I had less than a mile to the finish line.

As I came up to the high school, I got emotional.  I was on the verge of finishing my very first half marathon.  13.1 miles.  I've hiked this distance many times, but running the distance is so very different.  I suddenly had difficulty breathing.  I was about to step onto the track, not even a full lap left to go, and I couldn't suck in a full lung of air.  'What the hell is wrong with me?' I thought.  I can't pass out here, this is my first half marathon. 

And then the a-ha moment.  This is my first half marathon.  Holy Fucking Shit.  I'm about to finish my first half marathon.  No wonder I can't breathe.  I'm so fucking emotional.

A sight for sore eyes... and feet!
I immediately put the thought out of my head and started thinking about whether or not I could hold my pee (I hadn't gone since mile 8) as I crossed the finish line.  I saw the photographer and pulled myself together for some cool finishing shots, and then I ran as hard and fast as I could to the finish line.  I almost lost it when I heard my name (it's nice that they have that service for these long races), and nearly collapsed when they put the giant medal around my neck.  OMG, that thing weighs about as much as my three year old.  And the best news, I finished in 2:29:04!  56 seconds faster than my goal!
I make it look fun

I didn't see Paul and the kids, so I called.  They weren't at the stadium yet.  They ran out of gas.  My happiness deflated as I had to immediately go into problem solving mode.  But first, I had to go into blame mode and be irritated with my husband for not noticing that the car was on E when he got into it.

I didn't get to fully enjoy the VIP tent because I was no longer in the race.  I was too busy thinking about my husband and kids, stranded on the side of the road, waiting for the tow truck guy or Janet's husband (whoever got there first) to bring him gas.  It took me a while to find my bag, since all the VIP bags were placed haphazardly in the tent.  A woman offered me a towel.  It was warm and dry.  People kept stealing chairs out of our tent.  I wanted to yell "Hey Bitches, we're VIP!  Get your own chairs!"  but I was moping.

I didn't partake in the cold showers like I thought I would.  I got on a bus and went back to the starting area at Oktoberfest.  I found a parking attendant at the lot where we parked to have him guide Paul in.  It was the staff parking area.  I asked him if we could still park in the lot, since it's where the runners parked this morning.

"Sure, as long as he has a yellow tag on his dashboard."

I showed him my bib and said "Well, I'm VIP, so does that work?" 

"I guess so," he replied.

So, while my family wasn't at the finish line with hugs, high fives and flowers, we at least got sweet parking at Oktoberfest.  I didn't last long, though.  After a brat and kraut, I faded fast.  At least we got to watch the glockenspiel (which E called "boring").  The kids ate corn dogs on sticks and we shared a slice of marionberry pie on our walk to the car.

So there it is.  I finished my first half marathon.  And 60 days from now, I'll be running my second.  In Las Vegas.  I won't have the husband and kids to meet me (or to run out of gas on their way to meet me), but I will have my team. 

I've raised $135 so far.  It's a very small amount when looking at what I have left to raise, but I did some calculations, and if I can raise $56/day, I can meet my goal.  I need your help with that.  Please, donate what you can.  Help me get to Vegas!  Donate today!

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