I don’t even know where to start with this recap. I’ll write about the days leading up to the race later, but now I need to get my thoughts about the race down on paper before I forget.
Race morning went perfectly. We (My mom, dad, brother, and sister, and The BF’s parents) were up at 4:45 and out of the hotel by 5:20. I wasn’t sure what the parking/drop-off situation was going to be like near Hayward, so I wanted to make sure we all got there super early, and we were a 30 minute drive away. We were at the start by 6:00 and miraculously snatched up a parking spot .25 miles from the start/finish! Getting up early and drill-sergeanting everyone around totally paid off. We walked towards the start to get our bearings, stopped at Port-a-Potties, and finally settled on a post-race meet-up point. The hour flew by and before I knew it it was time to head to our corrals for the 7:00 start!
The half-marathoners all started in Corral A, and I was in Corral C based off of my predicted finish time. I was kind of bummed because this would mean I couldn’t run with my the others (my sister and brother, as well as The BF’s dad, were all running the half marathon), but I was also happy to have the chance to run my own race. I made my way to the 3:45 pacer and asked him his strategy. He said he was planning to run between 8:25s and 8:35s for the whole race. I decided that that was way too fast for me, given how poorly my training had gone this last month, and settled into a spot right between the 3:45 pacer and the 4:00 pacer. I had a high goal of running a 3:45, but felt like a 3:49 would be more realistic. I just wanted to see that 3:4-:–, whatever the time actually was.
Then, we were off! The weather was perfect. It was 50 degrees with a slight breeze and the sun peeked out from the clouds. Truly perfect running weather. Because I was trying to hit a certain time without knowing the mile splits, I struggled in the first few miles to find a good rhythm. My first mile was like a 9:10, and I immediately panicked. My initial plan was to run 9:00 miles to either the 10K or 13.1 and then pick it up, depending on how I felt, but that 9:10 scared me. I sped up just a little and tried to stick with a group of people running just slightly faster than me. I don’t remember my split for the next mile, but I do know it was much faster. And so was Mile 3. And Mile 4. I realized I was running what had to be 8:40s or 8:45s, but I also realized that I felt great, so I just decided to stick with it and hope this Eugene Marathon Magic rubbed off on me.
Somewhere around Mile 4.5 or 5 I started chatting with this wonderful lady, Nancy. She was from Eugene and told me all about the course as we ran along. It was her first marathon and she was hoping to BQ, which for her would be a 3:50. We decided to run together, and do what we could to make sure we both reached our goals: her a 3:50, and me a 3:49. We chatted and ran together for the next 12 miles!
I saw my family at Mile 10, and I was so happy to see them! I thought I’d missed them a mile earlier so I was very happy for the boost in morale. They told me that everyone running the half marathon was only 1:30 up ahead, and my dad told me to ‘go get them’, which made myself and the runners around me laugh. There is no making up 1:30 in a marathon in a short amount of time! Soon enough the half marathoners split from our course to head to the finish, and we kept going. I was so happy that everyone was having a great race though, and I knew from how far ahead of me they were that they would all come in under 2:00, which was their goal.
Fueling was going okay. I still haven’t found a good running food, so I stashed some things in my pockets that I knew I could at least stomach. I had a Larabar (dates tend to sit well) and a Honeystinger. I started eating bits of the Larabar around Mile 6, and took Gatorade or water at most aid stations. I felt pretty good overall, though a bit hungry. I was expecting this, though, and just tried not to let it get to me.
At the halfway point I was still feeling good but was definitely getting that inkling of hunger, fatigue, pain, and general malaise that I think most runners encounter on long runs. I made sure to pop a few Advil, if only for a psychosomatic boost. I ate a bit more Larabar and drank plenty of Gatorade.
I finally told Nancy that I was going to put in my headphones and pick up the pace at Mile 16. I did this at my last marathon and it really helped. Saving my music for the final push is a huge motivator, and it allows me to soak in the crowds and fun in the first miles when I’m not in agony. She told me to go ahead, and that she’d try to keep up and made sure to get each other’s bib numbers so that if she stayed behind, we could look each other up later.
When we got to Mile 16 I felt fantastic. A little tired and a little hungry, but I was not breathing hard at all (thank you sea level races!) and I knew I had more in me. I got down to what I assume was an 8:20 pace, put in my headphones, and just sort of put my head down and ran. I started passing a lot of people, which made me think either they were all running out of steam or I was getting too cocky with my pace. But I still felt great so I just went with it. I couldn’t really eat much more after this point, but that’s always been the case for me on long runs. Food just doesn’t sit well, so I relied on Gatorade and water from here on out. I was hungry but okay otherwise.
Around Mile 19 I started to get tired. but this was the point when I told myself to really just focus on my goal and keep going. I knew if I kept this pace up I could come in at least a minute under 3:50, and I told myself that if I walked, I would fall short of that goal. I didn’t walk once the entire race, except to duck into a bathroom around Mile 14. I ran through every aid station, which I feel really good about (other than accidentally dumping a cup full of Gatorade in my eye.. that burned!). I just told myself I had run a great race thus far and I wasn’t going to ruin it in the last 10k. I also told myself, as I do on most of my hard runs, that once I finished I never had to run again if I didn’t want to. Sometimes it helps!
The last five or six miles were, well, predictably tough. I was fatigued, my arms were tired, I was really hungry but my stomach was too upset to eat anything, and I just wanted the race to end. I just focused on running to the next mile marker, instead of thinking about having five miles left to run. It helped, and I think I ran these last five or so miles at around an 8:10 pace. At Mile 25 I tried to pick it up a little more but couldn’t talk myself into running that much faster–my mental game just wasn’t there, and I kept telling myself “you can pick it up later.” I sort of zoned out, and before I knew it I was at the 26 mile mark and realized I should have forced myself to run harder that whole last mile. I ran the last .2 as fast as I could and loved finishing on the track.
I finished in 3:45:05, with an average pace of 8:36. It’s an 11-minute PR from CIM, and I wound up crossing the finish line right behind the 3:45 pacer. I was shocked that I’d caught up to him after all.
I hobbled right to the pancake booth, grabbed some pancakes, some water, some potato chips, and some chocolate milk, and sat down for a second. I felt pretty good overall, though (which makes me wonder if I couldn’t have run just a bit harder, but I know that’s just me getting greedy!). I finally made my way to the meet-up spot and found everyone, and we all headed towards the car.
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I am so happy with this race. I had so little faith in my training and my abilities going into this, and I truly thought a 3:45 was well outside of what I could achieve. Every single long run I ran was at a 9:20 pace or slower–in most cases much slower. I had been feeling terrible this last month and every run felt like a struggle. I thought there was no way I could run a 3:45 at Eugene, and was expecting to run an average pace of 8:59 or something like that. I can’t believe I had such a good race, based off of my poor training. On the one hand, seeing that time makes me want to shoot for a BQ sooner than later, but on the other hand I know I need a break from long, slow training runs for awhile. But the seed has been planted and the little plant is growing more and more!
For now I have a few run races coming up. A trail run in June, and then my brother, sister, and I are running 26.2 miles for our 26th birthday in July. It’s not an official race, and will just be the three of us running around Seattle, but I’m really looking forward to it. It will be slow and relaxed and fun. Other than that, I’d like to work on some speed stuff this summer, especially since I have no interest in trying to do long training runs in the heat again this year! I’d like to finally get that sub-20:00 5K, and maybe clock an official sub-6:00 mile time at a local mile race.
Marathon #2 is in the books!