Photo Source: Mike Zacchino/The Oregonian, “Japan’s Makoto Ozawa, Portland’s Susan Smith win the 43rd Portland Marathon” Oct. 6, 2014
I honestly don’t remember running past this gigantic shoe! I do know that I was nearing the end though, I have no memories of the course after about mile 23…it’s all a blur.
It was one of those races where things just felt right. I woke up refreshed and ready to go at 5am, at the first ring of the two alarms that I had set. It’s always a good idea to have a back-up alarm! I had laid out everything the night before so there was nothing to worry about, no last minute decisions to be made. No stress. I made sure to be at the bus stop in time to catch the 6am bus downtown. I also chewed down 150 calories worth of dried bananas 1.5 hours before the start.
Once there, I joined the chaos of other runners. Just kidding, there was no chaos! It was highly organized, with informed volunteers directing runners and spectators to the right areas. I joined the porta-potty line first thing. Then I jogged a few blocks, maybe 5 minutes, and started my dynamic stretches various leg swings, hops, skips, until I felt properly warmed up. Then I with 15 minutes to the start I went back to the port-potties, yes….the lines were chaos and I have a small confession to make, I cut the line. In my defense, no one noticed and the line wasn’t moving! I fueled with a Huma gel (Cinnamon Apple) and lined up in the ‘A’ corral…I was nervous and offered up a small prayer: please let me run well. We sang the national anthem, and then, suddenly, it was time to go.
My plan was to hold back in the beginning and for the most part, I did. The first miles came easy. The temperature was already comfortable, and the energy of the crowd allowed me to cruise easily. There were many, many people in front of me…my earliest thoughts were to breathe deep and be patient. I had a long way to go. I had two more Apple Cinnamon Huma gels with me for the road and I started hydrating early, around mile 3 and consumed my first Huma gel in two parts, at mile 8 and then 9. I tried to eat my second gel at mile 18, but I’m pretty sure only half of it actually made it to my stomach. Along the course I also took in frequent sips of Ultima and water.
In the industrial area a.k.a. the “armpit of Portland”, I was lucky enough to catch up to two guys keeping perfect pace. Every mile they hit a 6:33-6:35 split on the dot so I cruised with them until we headed up the only major hill of the course at mile 16 to St. John’s Bridge. Just before, at mile 15 I passed the first women to becoming the leading female from then on. As part of my lead, I was accompanied by a cyclist whose job it was to report on my whereabouts. That was fine by me, because around mile 21 I found myself alone on the course (except for the awesome spectators). My favorite part of the course is always when I crest the St. John’s Bridge. I live for that moment and it makes the first 16 miles and the hill worthwhile. Unfortunately (and this has been the case for three years now) I never remember anything about the course after I leave the bridge. All I recall is pain, particularly when going down a long, steep downhill stretch at mile 23, and worry. One year I witnessed several runners in front of me being stopped by a train whose tracks crossed the course. I was lucky enough to get there just as the barriers to the tracks were raised and was able to keep running, but I can’t imagine the agony of having to stop and then start again. Apparently this year my worry was for nothing because the race directors coordinated with the trains to have no conflicts.
After I came off the downhill stretch, my strides were not the same for the last 3 miles. I also started talking to myself.
Photo credit same as above
My quads were beat up, I was tired. But I had run through “the wall” which had defeated me at the Newport Marathon in May. And after crossing the Steel Bridge (agony) and getting over the fear of being stopped by a train, I just kept reminding myself to keep going. It wasn’t much farther, I had no clue what my pace was by then…it was too much effort to look at my watch. The last few miles I just kept telling myself to go, go go– the crowd of spectators started to get larger and I could smell the finish line (it smelled like sweat and sweet relief!) getting nearer. Finally I rounded a corner and was thrown into the melee of half marathon finishers. One more turn, one more turn and then for the last 100m to the finish, I watched the clock tick mercilessly forward until I was done.
Immediately, I was handed the overall female winner trophy and pulled aside for a picture. Thankfully, I didn’t feel the need to collapse. I felt relief and a second later, bliss. I was done! I had finished and my time was pretty good! Thank goodness! I did a little interview, and then made my way to the water, guzzled several cups like a camel and then snagged a whole bag of grapes before a volunteer had a chance to cut them up. When I asked her if I could have the whole thing, she looked at me and asked, “Are you going to eat them all?” I responded, “YES!” I should have told her that I just won, maybe then she wouldn’t have been so skeptical! Regardless, I ate all the grapes and took some apples to go..finish line food isn’t exactly vegan-friendly! My glucose-deprived brain just wanted sugar!
Many people offered me congratulations, including the two guys who had paced those perfect splits from mile 10-16, (I ultimately passed them along the way, but they both finished sub-3!) we chatted for a bit and then I went to find my coach. I’m pretty sure he was proud when I told him the good news 🙂 And then he gave me a ride home, I hadn’t brought any more bus money…and I definitely didn’t feel like jogging!
I spent an hour stretching, and then foam rolling all while eating a ton of fruit….followed shortly by lunch. But soon after that I unfortunately developed a massive migraine that made me feel really sick. I realized I might be really dehydrated, so I chugged some electrolytes and water then passed out until 9pm. When I woke up I called my mom with the good news and ate dinner. Then I very happily went back to bed for another 8 hours of very deep sleep.
Splits According to my Garmin:
- 7:07* Large hill to St. John’s Bridge!
My primary goal coming into the marathon was to run a 2:50, which is a 6:30 pace. Ultimately, the several seconds I was off here and there added up and I missed my goal by 3:30. But this was definitely my best and most consistent effort to date. I am thrilled that I was patient in the beginning, paced pretty consistently, and pushed through the wall at the end!
I pinned this to the back of my singlet! Hopefully many people got the chance to read it, and I am happy that I was able to represent the best of what a vegan runner could do!
My mind is already racing ahead to my next planned marathon (L.A. Marathon in March) and the details of what it will take to get there and get faster! But first I need to focus on recovering optimally. I need to remember to rest, and give my body the best vegan nutrition I can to build myself up to be even stronger than I was before!
*This was my third Portland Marathon, and every year I have a great experience! Thank you to all the coordinators, volunteers, and race sponsors.
A huge thank you to my favorite running store, my coach and his wife, and my training buddy! As well as my mom and everyone else who supports me and wished me luck! There’s no way I could have done this all by myself. I am so grateful! Don’t worry, I’m done talking about the marathon now! 🙂