I ran the Vernonia Marathon on Sunday morning. I have been training for the Eugene Marathon coming up on May 1st. My training schedule called for a 20 miler this weekend, so I figured the Vernonia Marathon could count for my 20 miles (+6) with the added bonus of aid stations and cheering sections.
I tapered this week in preparation for Sunday (taper = rest days and less mileage). My hamstrings/glutes have been bothering me for about a year now, and unfortunately my calves and feet started to hurt more than usual on Friday and Saturday. I was really worried about putting my body through the 26.2 miles, but I decided to give it a shot.
I ate pretty clean throughout the week in preparation for race day, but on Saturday, the day before the race, I had a momentary lapse in judgement. I ate Pad Thai as my pre-race meal at about 4:30 in the afternoon. The Pad Thai tasted fantastic and sat well in my stomach, so I tried not to think about any future repercussions.
Sunday morning, I woke up at 3:45 am to prep for the race. "Prep" basically means I put on my running clothes and try to go to the bathroom for an hour. Exciting stuff.
I left the house promptly at 4:45 am and drove to Banks Middle School to pick up my running bib. I saw Ben, a member of a running group here in Portland, the moment I walked into the middle school. I was so grateful to see a familiar face. The bus ride up to the starting line was uneventful though I did get some strange looks from fellow runners when they saw my purple robe. I always freeze at the starting line of races (a combination of nerves and air temperature) and like to have a blanket or robe with me for warmth. This particular purple robe has seen me through the start of many races.
The bus dropped us off at a campground where I found plenty of INDOOR restrooms for more race prep. I am used to rotating through porta potties before the race, so as you can imagine, the flushing toilets, sinks, and soap were a true gift.
At precisely 8 am I dropped my purple robe in the grass, and the race began. My goal was to hold a 7:15 pace for as many miles as possible. I knew there was a bit of uphill starting at Mile 9, so my original goal was to hold pace until then. Well, I held pace for the first 5 miles, and then my legs started to feel tired. I took a GU hoping I would feel reenergized. The GU helped a bit, but my pace continued to slow. At this point in the race, I saw a lady on the path that cheered me on and told me that I was the first woman coming through. I couldn't believe it. I kept running and looked behind me to see where the next woman was. I tripped over my feet and decided not to look back again.
Somewhere between Miles 5 and 9, I saw my friend, Diane, cheering all the marathoners on. I was so happy to see Diane! I got a high five from her, got an extra boost of energy, and kept running. Then Mile 9 happened. The dreaded uphill. I was fading fast, so I took another GU. During my next few steps, I "realized" that something unfortunate had just occurred. My stomach no longer held the Pad Thai or the GU. I will not horrify you with any of the details.
Side note: I think the man pictured below may have eaten Pad Thai as his pre-race meal. He is my hero. What a trooper!
I continued plowing through the miles. I could feel myself slowing down with each and every step. I started playing mind games with myself by dedicating each mile to a family member or friend. For example, Mile 11 was dedicated to my brother, Caleb, whose birthday is in November, the eleventh month of the year. Makes perfect sense, right?! He is running the Salt Lake City Marathon next weekend, so during Mile 11 I kept saying, "Caleb, this one's for you! Caleb, you are going to rock your marathon next week at Mile 11!" I know. I sound crazy. Maybe I am. I certainly felt like it at that point. I continued clocking off the miles one by one. I saw Diane again at Mile 13. She cheered me on and motivated me to run up the last big hill. Suddenly, at Mile 18, I had to stop to stretch my hamstring. I glanced back and saw a group of two men and two women running towards me. They looked fresh and strong. I started running again. At Mile 19, the two men passed me. At Mile 20 the two women passed me. All I could do was take another GU. Or two. And I kept on running.
The last six miles were brutal. I needed to finish the marathon soon because I needed to get back home to take the kids to church. I sang, "Get Me to the Church on Time." I sang a myriad of other songs. I said, "Hello!" to runners that were finishing the 1/2 marathon. I prayed for it to be over soon. The course ended at Banks Middle School. I ran through the parking lot, I ran to the stadium, and then . . . I had to run a lap around the track. A lap has never felt so long.
I completed the marathon in 3:20:19. I ended up being the 2nd woman to cross the finish line. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I could place in a race. It was an amazingly beautiful course, and one I will not soon forget. One of the things I love most about running races is the comradery felt amongst the runners. We are all there to cheer each other on and motivate each other to finish even when it gets difficult, and sometimes messy.
The only thing missing from this race was the man with the pink sign above and my purple robe which was not returned at the finish line. (It's probably for the best. It was a very unattractive robe.)
A huge shoutout to the race director and all the volunteers that worked countless hours to put on a fantastic race. Thank you!