The Columbia Gorge marathon was, easily, my best race in years. Some of the things that contributed to that were obvious. A few others, were not so obvious, but really have me thinking.
|I didn't carry a camera through the race, this was taken a few years ago.|
|As was this.|
It would be easy to say that the big difference in this race from all others was that I ran it with no watch. Probably the most important factor, though, was that I was in much better condition for this race than I have been in years. My training went really well, I was about 6 pounds lighter than I have been for most recent races. I’ve always thought about running without a watch, and the fact that this course was all either uphill or downhill made it the perfect candidate to try it. I realized that I spend a lot of mental time and energy either in the past or in the future. I’m always calculating what my pace has been, what it should be, what it needs to be now, what it will need to be for the next x number of miles etc. I had none of that on Sunday. I’ve never felt more “in each mile”. Mile 5 to mile 11 was almost all uphill. There were a few times that I found myself thinking, “2 miles to the top….less than 20 more minutes then you get some downhill”. But it wasn’t an amount of time that had any countdown to it, just an observation. I’d love to think that I could run with a watch and just use it for feedback. Maybe that’s the goal.
I don’t eat before races, period. I’ve had conversations with so many runners about this that can’t believe someone can run a marathon without eating breakfast and a handful of gels during the race. Well, in my 3 years away from marathons I have to say, some things have changed. I couldn’t believe how much “gear” so many runners were carrying for a marathon. It wouldn’t be fair to say I negative split this race. I did, but the second half has more downhill and less uphill than the first. Still, this was my entire consumption. Coffee at 6:30 when I woke up. 2 cups of water in the 20 minutes before the start at 9:00. 1 cup of water at mile 11. 1 cup of water at mile 17. 3 Ibuprofen and a mouthful of water at mile 19. A cup of water and a cup of gatorade mixed together but not completely finished at mile 20. If you regularly have GI issues during races, I would strongly consider NOT eating.
My, in chunks, breakdown of the race goes something like this. The first 5 miles, I really tried to just enjoy. The views from the Old Columbia Hwy are just amazing. If you’ve never been on this 5 mile stretch from Hood River to Mosier, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s completely closed to vehicle traffic, beautifully smooth asphalt and absolutely gorgeous. As we made our way through the Mosier Tunnels and dropped down into Mosier, I knew I would see Jeanne for the first time. The weather forecast indicated that it might start raining during the race, so she had some alternative hats and shirts if I needed them. As I ran through Mosier, I did a quick inventory, realized that everything I was wearing was exactly what I wanted. According to Jeanne, I ran passed her and pointed from my head to my feet and said, “I’m perfect!”.
|When I was "perfect".|
My goal for THE HILL was just to stay steady. I’ve run it once before, though I couldn’t remember very much about it. It’s 6 mile of up and it’s too early in the race to get aggressive. By mile 5, everybody has settled into a pace and a place, and I just tried to make sure I wasn’t getting passed and stay under control. I had hoped to be able to count places, since it’s an out and back course but the race allowed for a one hour early start to accommodate slower runners. This early start was used by many people that should not have and it made counting places impossible.
I saw Lynn at the turn around, a car drove by and said something, all I heard was “cowboy”, and there he was. Later, as he drove by me again he said something about where we were running used to be called Hog Canyon, but they changed it. I really don’t listen very well when I’m running.
6 miles of downhill was bliss but by the bottom I was starting to feel my quads. I had one more uphill and then the last 5 miles downhill to the finish. I’ve had good results with strategic use of Ibuprofen in the past, and I had asked Jeanne to have some ready for me at the bottom of the hill in case I wanted it. We weren’t crystal clear in our communication about this the night before and I did want ibuprofen and she didn’t have any ready for me. As I have stated before, she is amazing at taking care of me when I am running, and this was a very understandable mis communication. I think I’m a pretty easy going guy, but my kids and co workers have both told me that I have a “look” when I’m not pleased with something that I have heard described as my “are you fucking stupid” look. I was 20 steps passed Jeanne and realized I had probably just given that look and instantly felt awful. I almost ran back to her to apologize, but instead stopped, stepped off the road and yelled back to her a “thank you”, that really didn’t make me feel any better. I was starting up the hill to the trailhead, feeling bad because I’d been rude, knowing I had one more hill in front of me and realizing that the rain was going to start any minute. Suddenly, there was Jeanne on the side of the road. She’d dashed into a market, bought some ibuprofen and a bottle of water and driven a mile to get ahead of me just in time. Now I could truly apologize, wash down some ibuprofen and get to the hill.
|My best second half of a marathon ever.|
My only real funk of the day came around mile 20. The little bit of Gatorade made me a little nauseous and the rain had started….and I was on the last uphill of the day. I could sense I was slowing, but that sensation was hard to gauge since I was passing early starters and half marathoners. Usually, somebody passing me, is my wake up call that I’ve slowed down. I remember looking back and not seeing another runner close to me, turning back back around and in almost no time, I was being passed. I thought, “wow, they came up on me quick” and decided to go with them no matter what. They turned out to be a father, in his 50’s and son, age 19. The son was running his first ever marathon. I had told myself that under no circumstance was I to ask somebody the time, before mile 20. Well, it was after mile 20. I was now comfortably tucked in behind them and running much faster, so I asked, “do either of you have the clock time?” The son said, “just a little over 3 hours”. I thought on this for a minute and almost wished, now, that I hadn’t asked. Because now I had to ask, “not to be a jerk but does a little over 3 hours mean 3:02 or 3:07?”. The dad now helped me out, we were just about to the 21 mile mark and he said “we will be right at 3:05 at mile 21”. I had a goal time of mid 3:40s and realized that I was going to be closer to 3:50 if I didn’t find another gear, and that meant leaving the comfort of drafting behind those 2 and really attacking the downhill to the finish.And that’s exactly what I did. I ran the last 5.2 in 40 minutes flat. My quads have paid for it, I’m still hobbling a little 4 days after, but it was totally worth it.