Eugene Marathon Race Report

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Eugene is Tracktown USA, but I think it’s fair to say any runner is going to be inspired in this idyllic Oregon town.
Leading up to the race, I eagerly watched and read everything I could about Steve Prefontaine. His approach to running was to give it all, otherwise “youre preparing to be disappointed.”

So toeing the line Sunday morning in Eugene, I positioned myself next to the 3:25 pace group. Sure, since my knee surgery my best marathon had been 3:38. And I’d missed my last long run due to a snowstorm and my weekly mileage has been … Not great.  But if I don’t try, how would I know what I was capable of?

I’d bought a new shirt for the race, it’s actually a shebeest bike jersey with a pocket in th back. I carried Kleenex, honey stinger chews, an iPod shuffle and Chapstick. I also wore compression socks and neon shorts – I looked like a highlighter except for the more muted Oregon buff Sara had bought for me.

We were a large group at 3:25 – I guess that’s a BQ pace for some men’s age group. We started off pretty quick with our jackrabbit pace leader leading us through the first mile at 7:27 (the pace for a 3:25 marathon is 7:49). It was quick but I figured she was as enthusiastic as we were! Sure enough, she slowed down the second mile and by the 3rd we were right on track.

The group was nice and chatty, but everytime I started talking, I found myself drifting ahead of the group. More than once I slowed to what felt like a crawl and let them catch me. Whoops! Good to feel that great, but I didn’t want to be rash.

I felt really prepared for the course from reports I’d read and gotten from others. I knew the “bump” was coming at 4 and took it like a champ. Except… Our pace leader really took it strong. Like, we didn’t take that mile any easier given the fact it was a tougher mile. Once again I hoped I wasn’t  ring a bit too aggressive too early.  But I just felt so great! Reading back over my Houston race report, I’d had doubts at mile 4 there and PRed. Here, I felt amazing!

M1: 7:28
M2: 8:03
M3: 7:49
M4: 7:49

I had found a couple running buddies to chat with: a tall guy from Olympia who’d been disappointed at Boston a couple weeks prior and came here to avenge it, and shorter guy from Portland who was running his 3rd marathon. He’d set a ~20 min PR with his last race and was looking to do it again. He was fun to talk with as he eagerly asked lots of questions of the veteran 🙂 the three of us ran along, chatting away.  It really helps to have people by your side!

M5: 7:43
M6: 7:43
M7: 7:48
M8: 7:46

Around mile 9 was headed past the starting line.  There was a young guy in our group who was running his second marathon and he seemed a little nervous about his ability to finish strong.  So I asked him about his fueling plan and tried to give him some advice too. He was wearing a Portland Run Team singlet so the guy obviously had speed, but he’d bonked in his first race. I advised him that his plan to fuel at 19 and 21 may come a bit too late. I hope it helped! In all, I was having a blast during this race!!

M9: 7:55
M10: 7:49
M11: 7:53
M12: 7:43

Right before the halfway point the course headed over the river and started to narrow on to a path.  Conversation died down a lot, which isn’t really a great sign at mile 12. I found myself no longer running with my guys: I was still doing some erratic pacing where I’d seem to push ahead and then get caught again by the group, but it wasn’t as effortless as it had been.

Stu had warned me that it would be important to have people nearby from 13-17 as they were tough miles.

We crossed the halfway point at 1:42:10 – almost perfect for a 3:25 given even splits!

M13: 7:50
M14: 7:47
M15: 7:53
M16: 7:46
M17: 7:51

Wanna see what happens as the wheels start to fall off? At mile 18 it was starting to get plenty warm. I grabbed some water and stopped to walk.

M18: 8:13
M19: 8:12

I tried to keep the pace leader in sight, but that 30 sec per mile slowdown meant it wasn’t too long til I was on my own. Which is never great at this point in the game. That whole wall thing? Pretty sure you could say I hit it.

M20: 8:44
M21: 9:31
M22: 9:49

In these few miles is when a couple of the Rev Running girls I’d been training with cruised past me. I knew I started ahead of them and of course I couldn’t help wondering if I’d been more conservative at the start, if I’d be cruising along like they were.

The good thing about this point in a race is that math is easy. I gave myself a 10 min per mile allowance and knew I’d still be content with the outcome.  Besides 3:25, I had several backup goals. One was a Boston Qualifying time, and with my *ahem* advancing age, that was 3:40. I knew I would be comfortably faster than that. Another was a post-surgery aPr, which was 3:38:40. That also seemed comfortably doable. So even as the last few miles were rough (my calves were comfortably compressed in sleeves but my quads were feeling the pounding of the concrete path), I just focused on bringing it in. I rarely looked at my watch because I knew it wasn’t like my body was really going to be willed into going any faster. I just looked forward to making it home.

M23: 9:23
M24: 9:09
M25: 9:28

Beer stop! Which is another benefit to not-trying-to-set-a-huge-record. Quite a few folks were walking/limping around this point and I tried to encourage them along. You can do anything for 15 minutes!

M26: 9:03

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The race finished right on Hayward field. I wish I had more speed left in the tank, but it just wasn’t there.

.2: 8:03 pace

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3:37:06 – BQ, post-surgery PR, 9th fastest marathon

After 39 of these things (yup, this was marathon #40), I know the importance of goals and the ability to shift focus. 3:24:59 was goal #1, but I had some backup goals on the side. I wasn’t going to fall prey to the negative mindset that has overcome me in other races.
Sure, I wonder if I should have been more conservative: could I have done a whole 26.2 miles at an 8mm rather than 18 miles at 7:48 , 2 at 8:15 and then 5 at 9:30. But I DO know I’m excited to see how I was able to keep up a 7:48 for so long.  My training definitely wasn’t perfect so I can see how I can step it up to do better… Remembering of course that qualifying for Boston is nothing to complain about! I just did it the hard way 😉

I met Sara afterwards: her December injury meant she went into this half marathon with a long run of 6.3 miles. She had also given herself an out (drop when the course hit the starting area around mile 9), but she’d soldiered on and finished in only a few seconds slower than the Canyonlands half last year! We stretched and enjoyed the sun before heading off to buy some ducks gear and lunch. The walking felt pretty good (and the sun felt even better!) though today were both limping like ole folks!

In all, Eugene was a super race that I’d heartily recommend.  It’s definitely a good course to have a buddy at, those last miles are beautiful but lonely. Of course I wonder if I could have executed differently, but I’m also glad I pushed myself to see what I was capable of.

Onto the next!

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