Eugene Marathon Race Recap
I'm not going to lie - I am so surprised at my race results from Eugene. I mean, my last post about training clearly stated I was slowly dying from training and this may not be my time to run a marathon. And then I proceed to get a 7 minute and 29 second PR. MMMMK J.
Eugene was such a different experience for me than my last 3 marathons. I went from a minimum of 25,000 runners (Chicago, Boston, NYC) to 1,500 runners (in the marathon - the Eugene half had another 1,500). There were not spectators at every section of the race to pull you through the tough moments. But the small size yielded me an amazing experience still. So much to tell!!
We got into Portland on Friday afternoon and rented a car to make the 2 hour drive south to Eugene. By the time we arrived and checked into our hotel, it was time for dinner. On Saturday, we made our way to the expo. Don't be surprised - it wasn't very big. But they had all the essentials. This was the first time I left home without a few race day items - my sunglasses and my Flipbelt. I picked up some Goodr sunglasses at the expo (even though race day called for 70-80% chance of rain). I was able to find my Flipbelt at a Bed Bath & Beyond store next to our hotel (strange, I know). We were at the expo for about an hour, and then made our way back to the hotel to relax after lunch.
A few amazing women on Instagram told me I had to eat at Beppe & Giani's for dinner - the best Italian place in town. We'd heard the wait could get long, so we got there right at 5 when they opened and there was already a HUGE line. We ended up waiting until 6:45 to get sat, but it was worth it. The most simple pasta with tomato sauce, but exactly what I needed. We made our way back to the hotel just after dinner and I spent some quiet time focusing in and visualizing the next day and what I hoped to achieve. I still wasn't feeling very confident in my abilities at this point, but either way, I was running 26.2, so the positive vibes were necessary!
I got up at 4:30 and made my oatmeal and banana. Gun time was 7:00 am and I usually eat my oatmeal 2.5-3 hours before the start. It gives it time to digest and process so I can use the restroom. I went back to bed for a bit and practiced my visualization again while everyone else slept. At 5:30, I woke up my dad and Ricky because they were going to drop me at the start and then make their way around the course to find me and take pics. We left the hotel at 6:30 and I got as close to the start as we could around 6:40. I jogged the quarter mile to the start and made my way to the porto potties for my several pee breaks. I usually get in one and when I jump out, I get in line for another one! There were plenty of porto potties and the race was so well organized. I made my way up to my corral around 6:55.
When I looked at the Eugene website a few weeks ago, there were only pacers every 10 minutes and the fastest pacer was a 3:15. I was bummed - pacers have been really helpful with keeping me in check and relieving a lot of the stress that comes with pacing yourself. I got over it pretty quickly since I ran NYC without a pacer and did fine, but that was also a larger race with more crowd support to keep you going when things got tough. When we were at Beppe & Giani's, there were tons of marathoners there and one man I spoke with told me that he met the 3:05 pacer at the expo earlier that day. I didn't get my hopes up as I looked around in my corral, but then I SAW HIM! A 3:05 pacer sign! I made my way back to him and couldn't believe my luck. I didn't have time to chat with him about the course or strategy because it was time to start!
I knew I would see Ricky and my parents at mile 1, 8, 18, and then the finish, so I kept my eyes out for them. There was a large group of us with the 3:05 pacer. I saw my dad and Ricky at their scheduled spot at mile 1 and was so excited to see them and was still so happy I had a pacer! We were going pretty fast the first couple miles (6:44 for mile 2!), but it felt good and I focused on telling myself to let the run come out of me.
I could not stop thinking that I had to pee and this was only over exasperated by taking my first gel at mile 5 and guzzling water. I finally saw some porto potties just before mile 8, so I broke off and was in there for maybe 10 seconds. When I got out, the pacer was so far in front of me I started doing a sub 6 pace to catch him. I saw Ricky on the side of the road staring at the group trying to figure out what happened to me, so I waved him down. Eugene really is a pretty flat course, but just as my legs started to fill with lactate acid and I caught the pacer, we started going up what felt like a massive hill. All I kept thinking as we climbed the hill and I held onto the pacer was, "I just screwed myself."
After we made it up the hill, I pushed the negative thoughts out of my mind and just told myself, "I'm fine. I got this." We made out way back to where we started to cross over the U of O campus and make our way to the river path. Somewhere around mile 11, I broke off from the pacer and I was running with 3 other guys. At times, we were doing a 6:55 and I had mini panic sessions, but told myself, "I can run these paces. I can keep up with these guys." Other times we dropped to a 7:05. I just held on.
At this point, we broke off from the half marathon and weave around the river for the remainder of the race. It's beautiful, lush, and green. So peaceful, but also hard when you have no one screaming at you and cheering you on. I tried to keep my mind focused and told myself how many more miles I had to get through to see my family again. I saw them at mile 18 and it gave me an extra boost! I wasn't sure how much more I had left. My left quad was starting to feel tense and my quads are usually the first thing to cramp up during my races.
I just kept telling myself to focus. Around mile 21, I could tell I was going to have to battle. I was surprised to see my family again at mile 22 because I thought our last meeting point was mile 18. I told Ricky I was dying. He yelled, "Only 4 more miles. We'll see you at the finish." I knew the faster I ran, the sooner I would see them. The pacer caught up to me at mile 23 and offered to draft for me. He was by himself now, so he wasn't worried about pace, but just wanted to help. He got me through mile 23. Then, another guy came up and ran with us, so the pacer broke off to keep pace for his finish time. Just 3 more miles.
We made our way off the riverbed and were back on the streets. I could hear the finish line. I saw the campus and knew we were close. Finally, the mile 26 sign showed up. Less than one time around the track and I knew at this point I was getting a sub 3:10. I saw the sign for Hayward field and knew I had to push. So much emotion going into the stadium - you feel like you're a famous track star. I saw my parents cheering for me. "I did it. I f*&%ing did it," was all I kept thinking to myself. I crossed the finish line and burst into tears. All the kids handing out medals have to think all of us criers are crazy right?
I made my way to the finish festival to meet up with my parents and just cried the entire way. I still couldn't believe it. You guys, there is no limit to what you can accomplish except those you place on yourself. My mental game showed up on race day and that helped eliminate my doubts about my physical preparation. Believe in yourself.
I'm forever grateful to all of YOU who read my blog, follow my journey on Instagram, and support my running. I only hope to be able to give back a piece of what I've received into this community by supporting your journeys. I'm also grateful to my amazing family and Ricky. Behind every runner is a team of people that help make their dreams come true. Thank you!