Portland Marathon Mile 18 St Johns Bridge
So the 2008 Ironman Louisville is over, so what now? Well . . .. my uncle from Newport Beach, CA has four kids, my cousins, and the youngest of which planned to get married in Portland, Or on October 3, 2008. My uber tri bro Kirk from IM Zona fame lives in Portland with my cousin Steph and their two kids and always runs the Portland Marathon . . . . .the race start is the morning after the wedding and only three blocks from the hotel . . .hmmnnnn , , ,
You get the picture. Fly in to Portland with Heather, Josh, and Quinn on a long six hour flight all day Friday from New Jersey. At the rehearsal dinner at the brew pub, (What? you are in Portland, it has to be a brew pub or a coffee joint right?!) it is 8pm but feels like 11pm for us. oh, and yes it is misty and raining, it is the Pacific Northwest after all!
Anyway, the kids are jetlagged wiped and so are we so we all crash at 8:30 halfway thru the dinner. Saturday is packet pickup and the Children's Museum followed by the wedding itself. I am not going to not enjoy the reception and have some light beer, but I am careful to mix in lots of water too. As the party gets started at 11pm I am off to bed.
Sunday Marathon day I have a 5am wakeup call and hit a light breakfast in the lobby. I bid adieu to my sister Carrie and her family who is headed back to New York on an early flight. I swap some stories with a fellow racer who is in his 2nd marathon. I tell him about IM and he shares with me some Utah track stories and his goal to run sub 3 hours and qualify for Boston. Speaking of Boston, Kirk is also gunning for a 3 and a half hours and an entry to Boston spring of 2009.
My aim today is to pace him as long as possible to meet this goal and then finish sub 4 hours. I am a little worried about my legs after completing IM Lousiville just a month before. I have felt OK in training but have not run more than 14 miles since the IM marathon march.
We meet at the start with Kirk and his gym buddies and we are a bit late and the port-o-let line is crazy hectic. We hit the start chutes at race start and sneak through the crowds way up to nearer the front. There are people everywhere!
At 7pm the gun goes off and we are away across the line within 15 seconds. We are keeping a close eye on the Geico Lizard pacer who is carrying a long stick with the gekko. The pacer will keep us on a 3:30 pace for the first half of the race and then be replaced with a second pacer for the second half of the race.
Portland is a green city and this is evident for the marathon too. The goodie bags are recycleble, and the race timing chips are magnetizied plastic strips that stick to your shoe laces. Weird and mine does not seem to be staying on right.
The start is your typical big city race start, a mad throng of over eager racers. Kirk and I stick to the right edge to allow for some manuvering. Through mile 1, 2, 3, and 4 we are slightly below 8 minute per mile or 3:30 marathon pace that Kirk needs for Beantown. In fact we will hit a couple of 7:30 miles in the first 10 miles which is kinda fast for me with 5lbs of femur steel.
At mile 6 the crowd is starting to thin out a bit and we head out of downtown Portland into the warehouse district for a long out and back. Kirk and I get separated at the waterstops trying to grab cups on the go but manage to reconnect each time. Because of the crowds and our need to stay on pace I am not getting enough fluids. As the weather is 50s and overcast, I am not that worried about this. Big mistake! I do start to realize that we are moving and not simply shuffling along.
An ideal marathon pace has the first six miles or 10k be a cakewalk, the first half 13 milers comfortable and the first 20 miles being difficult but with some reserves in the tank for the final 10k. Our first 10k split is 49:22 or just under 8 minute pace. So far so good. I can tell that Kirk is getting excited too, or just listening to a good Ipod song . . .yes Portland is the Ipod friendly marathon too and we are rockin out!
The crowd continues to thin out and we now can spot some of the elites whizzing by us on their return leg from the warehouses. The volume is light and only a few minutes in front of us the number of runners becomes a pack from a trickle a few minute before. There are definitely some women thrown in there too. Some run effortlessly, others have a face of focus and determination. At 8 mile mark the water stops are still a problem for me every other mile to grab enough fluid and go without breaking pace.
At the mile 8.9 time check we are still right on pace at a 1 hour 10 minutes or a 7:52 pace. What is this pacer doing? trying to break us? We are both in a nice rhythm now and there is plenty of room to manuever and keep the gekko flag in eyesight. Kirk and I are tending to the back of the pace group and I am defintely laboring a bit now. Hopefully a second wind will kick in soon!
At the ten mile we complete the return leg and cross to new territory. The crowds behind us coming out the leg are starting to build into the mad throng we have left just behind. Sub eight minute pace at least has some benefits! Kirk and I exchange smiles and a fist bump, and Kirk lets out a BOSTON BABY! A couple of our fellow runners look at us approvingly. But now back to the business at hand and we still have a long way to go!
There is a downhill at mile 11 and I lose Kirk for a minute as he fiddles with his gel pack and falls back. He is smart and I eat some Clif Blocks but also lose a pack at mile 11 racing down the hill to stay with the pacer. I am worried for Kirk here as I know I am starting to fade a bit and pray for some energy. I eat a pack of Blocs but also drop my salt tabs by accident and cannot stop for them.
Fortunately I spot Kirk at the bottom of the hill who gives the thumbs up and we resume the pace. Now comes the good news/bad news. On the plus side, at the half marathon pad we roll over at 1:43:37 or at 7:55 pace and are flying as the crowd thins out more. We are on the 3:30 finish pace with a one minute cushion built in. On the negative side, I am starting to feel it and my legs are dead legs as I struggle to turn them over and keep up with the pacer. Several times I fall 50 yards back and have to fight my way back up to Kirk and the bedraggled pace group. To further reduce morale, we grab a new pacer and our old pacer drops out and walks and smiles at us as we whiz past. I hate him! Friggin 7:30s!
At mile 15, I am starting to realize that the goose is cooked and am praying for some energy. I snack on the last of my blocks and hope to hang on. Kirk is looking concerned, but I want him to focus on his race. I give him the sign and tell him to go with the pace group. He looks at me and tries to be a team guy. I tell him again. You go now! I fall back fast now down to a 9:30 pace to make him go and try to plot my plans to recover and finish the race.
Leaving the pace group behind I am running virtually alone. There are a few brave souls pluggin along as we hit the hill up to the St Johns bridge and up to the photo above.
I run the bottom half of the hill and then walk. Gotta save what I have left! I am being passed a bit but I don't care. The walking feels good on the legs and I start to recover a bit faster than an IM marathon march.
Near the top of the hill I am running at mile 17.5 and cross the time check at 8:12 pace or two hours and 23 minutes. The time is still solid and run down the bridge and hill through mile 18 where there is a second uphill to the peak of the course.
My legs are heavy and dead and there it is . . . .. the wall. . . . People talk about hitting the wall all the time. I always equate that to not having energy or wind left, or willpower to carry on. I have all of these mental and heart required . . . . .but still the wall is there.
Quite simply the feeling is that no matter what your brain signals your nerves, you cannot run anymore regardless of how much you want to. Behind my knees first the left then the right calves deep inside simple stop working. My brain say push, and I cannot push off to lift my legs and take steps. even walking is painful each step. It is very much like a physical wall in front of me that is preventing me from continuing. I still try a couple of shuffle step strategies and no go. It is time to walk and eat and regroup.
At mile 19 I am still trying to shuffle out of the walk and the legs scream in protest. I am scanning for food and drink at every spectator group. The mile 20 sign takes forever to spot and I cross it in two hours and 55 minutes or 8:36 pace overall. The time is still Ok, but also that is a 31 minutes for the last 2.5 miles or a 12:30 pace. Ouch. Kirk is now 20 minutes ahead of me, I hope! Other runners are starting to pass a bit more now too, and the 3:35 and then the 3:40 pace groups whiz by. In their wakes there is always a blank zone until a few runners start to fill the voids.
I am walking now and convincing myself it is OK to quit. I served my mission and got Kirk on pace as far as I could. I do not need to finish this. Why bother? The fact I have never quit and not finished any race ever seems of small consequence. I spot the Red Cross aid station at mile 21 and I stagger in. I tell them I am cramped up and I get some massage and I lay down. I am given some of the hammer drink, and some gel. I tell them I am done and can I wait for the shuttle back to the race start.
A chunky beer belly cop laughs and I am thinking, why don't you drop 35 lbs and try to run once in a while! He then says the shuttle is at least 90 minutes away from leaving here. I know before he says it, I am better off walking and I lift up and stagger out. At mile 21.1 the clock now says 3:13:10 or 18 minutes since my last mile was completed. This is gonna suck!
I think to Kirk and hope that he is steaming in to mile 24 right now with 16 minutes to go the last 2 miles and get in under 3:30. If I am in pain he must be fighting it too! Though I am only 3 miles behind him and with only 5 miles to go I am worried. Then I start to thinking about how the only way to get to the finish is on my own. Also Kirk will be waiting around for me too so perhaps I can get there soon. 5 miles should take 45 minutes so I can still make my four hours finishing goal.
I start a tentative jog. After a 100 yards the hamstrings and calves seize back up and that is it. I am demoralized and walking through mile 22 and then 20 minutes later through mile 23. Seeing people of all body types run by this soon after completing an IM is further disheartening. Four hour finish pace group sails by. Then 4:15 group too. Down a long hill I still can only walk. Finally at mile 23 we are closing in on downtown. There is a long bridge coming up and now I am getting cold. I just need to get warm and dry now. Nothing else matters.
I start a jog just to move and blow on my hands. My wet shirt is not helping any. My four hour goal to finish is out and the new goal is built upon the need for warmth and nothing else. I need this to end.
I am able to hold the jog and cross mile 24 still jogging at 11 min pace. It hurts a lot but now everything hurts and I am freezing too. I cross mile 25 and am hanging on by sheer grit and fear of freezing if I stop. At least in IM it is hot out and suffering is miserable but not freezing on top! At mile 26 there is no kick, no joy . .. there is nothing. I look up at the finish and manage a smile as I come in under 4:30 at 4:29:43. Could be worse! I am done . . . . .
I hit medical and enjoy warm blankets, a smoothie, and a cookie. After a medical check, I am released into general population and secure an orange, a coke and my hard earned techinical finishers shirt. I look in faint hope for Kirk and am hopeful for his result. I pass through the throngs and look for him at our pre-determined meeting spots.
I grab my checked bag and labor back to the hotel. Heather and the kids are with Steph and I have the room for myself and hit the shower. The steamy water is soothing and my cold skin turns red from the change over. I think hard about sitting down but fear I will never get up again!
The Portland Marathon is in the books and the pain is over. Kirk picks me up at the hotel and beers and pizza are savored with Kirk at the brewpub and then at the Lackos post race with the kids! What? oh Kirk's race results? You will have to go to his blog . . ... no kidding . . ..guess who posted a time of 3 hours, 30 minutes and 41 seconds? Can you say Boston baby, boston! with 18 seconds to spare!! See ya for an April 20, 2009 Patriots Day race!