Out from under the rock I must crawl, sez I.
The 2011 Portland Marathon is now but a memory.
This was my second marathon, and a great experience - especially as far as the weather was concerned. It rained for only about 10 minutes or so at one point early in the race, and the rest was cool temps and overcast skies....perfect for running, to be sure.
The week before marathon day, I started coming down with a cold. Perfect timing, naturally. All week I hoped and prayed it would go away, or at the very least, not become too deeply entrenched in my chest, but unfortunately, it had settled down there to some degree by Sunday morning. But I'd not developed any other symptoms that would have made it patently unwise for me to run, such as a fever, so I forged ahead.
The real bummer going in was that Jenn and I were both placed in the walking corral, even though we'd both explicitly stated we were running, not walking. So getting started meant dodging, weaving and marking time for almost the first mile and a half, which put a damper on our time. Also, all throughout the race my mucus-addled lungs made things more difficult that normal - the first two miles were particularly tough and I struggled to find my pace and get my breathing dialed in, and every once in a while I'd hack up what seemed like small unattractive pieces of my lungs. :-P
And about those Honey Buckets. They had plenty of them out on the course, which was great, but there still ended up being significant lines for several of them, which threw another monkey wrench in our time. I ended up having to utilize them more for this race than I've had to for any other, including last year's marathon. It was a little odd, since I didn't shake things up at all in terms of either what I ate pre-race or on the course. Unfortunately, Jenn didn't figure out until about mile 15 that a primary cause of her particular distress was the Ultima they had at the aid stations, so after we crossed the St. John's, she switched solely to Gatorade and water.
By the time we got over the bridge, about 17 and a quarter miles, we were definitely starting to feel it, but getting to that point was a huge mental shift for me. Even though we still had over 8 miles to go, and that a few parts and pieces of me were really starting to sing (in particular, my left foot, which was the foot that was injured a month before last year's marathon) it was a tremendous relief to finally get onto the other side of the river.
My family kept popping in at various points, which also kept my spirits up. Jenn and I had spent the last couple of hours watching our initial time goals slip away, and it eventually became a matter of just trying to get in under my previous time of 7:11.
So on we slogged, getting sillier and giddier by the mile. Speed bumps became hills....."Up........and down!" There were probably about 10 speed bumps on one part of the course after the 20 mile mark, and people around us would either give us really weird looks or laugh along with us as we marked our progress over each of them. Jenn started singing and together (although she was much more prolific than I) we made up about 20 extra verses - somewhat morbid and graphic verses, to be sure - to "The Wheels on the Bus." By the time we were getting close to the finish, the bus was on fire, the driver had hung himself and the parents were suing. It was epic.
Long about the 23 mile mark was the spot where last year, the family had unexpectedly showed up to cheer - from the top of a steep cliff on the left side of the road. Apparently, this area was supposed to be off-limits to spectators, but once again, they were there - and once again, it almost made me cry. I was so tired and so sore...and to have them up there, jumping up and down and yelling was just a huge, awesome shot in the arm. Or in the legs, as the case might be.....
Once past this spot, downtown was quickly approaching. Over the Broadway Bridge, looping around back down onto Naito and the homestretch. By this point, we definitely knew we needed to keep up the pace if we were going to make it in under 7:11, so this is when Jenn started in earnest with the singing and the mild threats of violence if I didn't get my ass moving.....well, maybe not quite that. But there might have been a few times where I was threatening violence, at least in my head, if I heard even one more time that "we were almost there."
Turning off of Naito and onto Salmon was a blessed event. SO close. I really poured on the juice then....
And, one of the most intense race photos of me EVER:
Oh, Lord, I was hurting quite badly by this point. I was as close to puking as I've ever been in any race I've ever done, but I am very proud to say that I actually managed to more or less run the entire final mile, whereas last year I walked nearly every step after mile 22 and only managed to half run/half shuffle the last couple hundred feet. Where I got the extra sauce to pull it out this time I still don't really know. But it was really, really sweet crossing that finish line. And we came in at 7:10 and small change. So yeah, PR. A PR is a PR is a PR, so they say.
The medals were gorgeous. The finisher's shirt, very nice. They gussied things up a bit for the marathon's 40th anniversary, which was really cool.
So. All in all, a great run. And it was really great running with Jenn - I am so glad she decided to do this race with me. Solo running definitely has its place, and I do often enjoy running by myself, but in this case, having someone with me made a lot of difference in the outcome, even if it was only by one slender minute.
And now comes the question of "what's next?"
A couple posts ago, I mentioned that I really wanted to start raising the bar with my running - to commit to it whole-heartedly and make it a completely non-negotiable component of my life. Not that I haven't been serious about it up until now, but mentally I need to be in the game more than I have been, and physically, I've got to get some weight off and work on improving my speed. I know that speed isn't the be-all and end-all, but I really am quite tired of being passed by walkers. In fact, as far as setting goals are concerned, I have decided not to rule out the possibility that I might be able to hack a BQ sometime in the next 4 or 5 years. Truth is, I really don't have a clue as to what I am truly capable of, especially if I can get down to a good "fighting weight." And yes, in spite of my fondness for being a "Penguin" and quite proud of it, I really would love to run Boston as a qualified runner, just once. Call it a bucket-list thing.
Looking ahead, I think I am going to proceed with my percolating plans to make 2012 "The Year of the Half." I am going to try and do at least one half a month, funds permitting, and really concentrate on making this distance a strong one for me as a foundation to support some serious work on my marathon distance in 2013. By 2014, I'd like to either tackle an ultra, or start working for a BQ. I don't know if I'll ever make it, but I owe it to myself to try.
I am up to the challenge! Who's with me? :-)