Scroll all the way down to the end of the post for the tl;dr version.
I started training for the Eugene Marathon back in December and created my own training plan each week. Overall, it was a great training cycle! It was a mild winter in Washington, D.C. There were weeks in January, February and April where I over-trained, but generally my training went smoothly. I ran two tune up races – the Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon and the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler – and the Boston Marathon as a long run. The week before the race, I mostly ran easy.
- Marathon PR: 3:22:56 (7:45 pace) at the 2013 New York City Marathon.
- Most Recent Marathon: 3:42:59 (8:31 pace) at the 2017 Boston Marathon.
Achievable: Sub-3:33 (8:08 pace). My goal marathon pace for this training cycle was 7:50-8:00 but most of my runs at this effort were 8:05–8:10. Also, McMillan equated my 1:42:00 (7:47 pace) at the Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon to a 3:34 (8:12 pace) marathon.
Stretch: Sub-3:24 (7:47 pace). Based on my time at the 2017 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, I could run significantly faster. McMillan correlates that 1:12:40 (7:16 pace) with a 3:23:59 (7:47 pace) marathon.
Strategy: With those two ranges in mind, I thought I would start out at 8:10-8:15 pace and then slowly increase the pace until I was holding 7:57 pace through the end.
The course is fast! It starts on the University of Oregon – Eugene. It heads south four miles, includes two short hills, before looping back. After passing thorough campus, the course crossed the Williamette River and goes east through neighborhoods. A few miles later, the course goes west through suburbs and parks before crossing the Owosso Bridge. The final miles are through city parks and finishes on Hayward Field.
There are water stops every 2 miles or so. Most of the crowds are around the University of Oregon campus and in Alton Baker Park.
I arranged 54 songs or 3 hours and 30 minutes of music.
I arrived in Eugene late in the afternoon. I immediately mixed up a carbohydrate drink and sipped it on the short drive from the airport to my hotel. I walked around the neighborhood before falling asleep.
The next morning, I read results and commentary from the Nike sub 2 hour attempt and felt even more excited about my race!
After having a cup of coffee, I went for a 3 mile shake-out run. I felt terrible! My legs were heavy and I was breathing hard. I thought, “This isn’t good.” But, I always feel bad after rest days.
After breakfast, I showered and drove to Pre’s Rock. I paid my respects, took in the view from the road, and then left a pair of my shoes from this marathon cycle as tribute.
I went to the expo at around 11:30am. The website said it was on the soccer fields next to Hayward Field. I didn’t know where that was exactly and had a little trouble figuring out where I should park. It didn’t take me long to figure things out, though.
Registration took place in a tent. I picked up m bib and walked around a bit. There were a few vendors selling gear and maybe a dozen others either given out samples or promoting their organization. I took at 3:25 pace bracelet thinking it would help me determine if I was going out too fast.
Back in my hotel, my leg muscles felt a little sore. I rarely resort to taking anti-inflammatory medications, but I took an Ibuprofen. I walked around a local market before dinner. I was feeling heavy and wanted something light, so I had a salad with salmon. I settled into bed after 8pm, gave myself and EMS treatment, and fell asleep watching “Spirit of the Marathon“.
I got up at 3am. I ate a bagel and Kind Breakfast bar with coffee. The observed weather in Eugene was 38 degrees! I thought that was a little cold, I packed arm warmers and gloves in my gear bag. My legs still felt a little tight so I took another Ibuprofen. The puffiness was gone, though. I had a banana and took an Imodium before leaving the room.
I got on a shuttle bus to the race site at around 5:45am. I sipped a carb drink on the ride. It was only a 10 or 15 minute drive to the University. In the “Athlete’s Village”, I pulled out a Mylar blanket and rested.
With about a half hour to go, I went to check my bag. I kept the mittens but checked the arm warmers. There was a bit of a delayed as the woman ahead of me waited until the last minute to decide what she wanted to check. I left my bag on the table and rushed off to the port-a-potties. The line was long! I remembered a volunteer saying there were some by the start line so I took a chance and jogged over. Sure enough, the lines were much shorter! After a couple of minutes, I was in my corral and lined up just ahead of the 3:35 pacer. I hadn’t timed thing well because soon, I had to pee again! The color guard presented the flag and a woman sang a lovely rendition of the National Anthem. Alexi Pappas, our official race starter, said some words and then we were off!
Near perfect weather for a marathon.
Early Miles – Miles 1 to 5 (Agate Street, Hilyard Street, East Amazon Drive)
The start was in a residential neighborhood on Agate Street and had a nice sized, welcoming crowd. I checked my Garmin early on. It showed I was running a little slower than I wanted, so I pushed the pace a little. After a half mile, I checked again and I was where I wanted to be. Around this time, I also noticed my right calf was aching.
At the 1.5 mile mark, the course went left onto Hilyard Street. From studying the route, I knew I’d be on this stretch for a while, so I moved to the far right of the road and tried to settle into a comfortable pace. I looked around, trying to soak up the surroundings, but all I could think about was my sore calf. It really hurt and it was an unfamiliar pain. It covered the entire outside of my right leg from foot to knee and was more throbbing than sharp.
The first of two hills on the course started at the 2.5 mile mark on East Amazon Drive. I struggled to climb it. Runners were passing me like I was standing still. Cresting the hill should have felt like victory, but I was completely winded and my calf was absolutely killing me. I couldn’t believe this was happening so early in the race! Searching for a cause, I went over all the things that could have aggravated the area. “Was it the Ibuprofen? The carbo-loading? … Could it be a blood clot?!”
Just before the 4.5 mile mark, the course headed back towards downtown Eugene. Quitting flashed through my mind. I was in a lot of pain and didn’t know what would make it better. Gathering myself, I tried running a little differently hoping that might help. For a few strides, I’d lift my knees higher, lengthened my strides, or speed up; and then return to my normal gait. At the 5 mile mark, I started a Crank Sport e-Gel. Deep down, I knew I was going to finish this race no matter what.
Splits (by course): 8:08, 8:05, 8:01, 8:00, 8:10.
Early Miles – Miles 5 to 10 (West Amazon Drive, Agate Street, Milrace Drive)
Despite the pain in my calf, I was still trying to enjoy the race. For example, during this stretch, I saw a woman out on her run cheering for us as she went along and I smiled. In general, I was in a better mood because I could tell my strategy of speeding up and altering the flexion in my ankle was helping. But, I knew running this hard so early was dangerous.
The second hill of the course arrived about 7.5 miles into the race. In what seemed like an instant, I went from running recklessly fast to shuffling. “This is going to be a train wreck,” I thought. There was a string of balloons over the course at the crest of the hill. This wasn’t Heartbreak Hill but you wouldn’t know it from the crowd support. Feeling a bit disappointed and sorry for myself, I zoned out as the course turned left onto Agate Street and back through the University of Oregon campus. Half marathoners were finishing, which was a little demoralizing when you’re feeling so bad with 17 more miles to go.
After leaving the campus, the course continued onto the Riverfront Parkway. I felt a little better and was surprised that… I was passing people! Even though the race wasn’t going as well as I hoped, I realized I could still improve my placement. Turning right onto Milrace Drive and then Garden Avenue, I set my sights on passing a half dozen women ahead of me.
Approaching the half marathon split, the course went over a pedestrian bridge. The view of the river and I-5 Bridge with the water rushing towards us was stunning!
Splits (by course): 7:58, 7:58, 7:55, 8:25, 8:09.
Middle Miles, Miles 10 to 16 (Centennial Boulevard, Leo Harris Parkway, Alton Baker Park)
The half marathoners split off shortly after the 10 mile mark. Knowing this can feel lonely in smaller races, I immediately quickened my pace to catch the pack ahead of me. I also started my second gel. The course was on a narrow rail trail until D Street when it went back on road. I tucked behind the pack I’d trailed for the last mile. Then, over the next mile, I surged and passed them and a couple of other runners.
After the half marathon split, the course turned left onto Centennial Boulevard. The road was slightly downhill and I took advantage by letting my legs fly for the next mile or two. I saw one of my second favorite sign, “Persevere”. Given my calf pain earlier in the race, I felt like I was doing just that. Along the way, I saw the recreational runner from Mile 5 in the race! “How did she get all the way up here?” I started feeling a little tired, so I tucked behind two women and let them pull me forward for a little while. When they slowed down on an uphill, I left them and looked ahead for the next runners to pick off.
Just before 16 miles, the course went left onto Leo Harris Parkway and Alton Baker Park. I started my third gel. I saw the backs of runner who passed me on the East Amazon Drive. I had to pass them.
Splits (by course): 8:07, 8:07, 8:02, 7:59, 8:04, 7:57. First half=1:46:13
Later Miles, 16 to 21 (Alton Baker Park, East Bank Trail)
The next few miles were on narrow concrete trails with gorgeous views of the Williamette River. The crowds were sparse but I didn’t even care. Runners ahead to pass and my playlist were enough to keep me motivated. I spied and then passed a woman in a rainbow singlet who passed me on the first hill! I didn’t give up then and I wasn’t going to give up now. I kept pushing the pace even though I could sense the course was slightly uphill and into the wind.
On the North Bank Trail, I started to fade a little. The route was very slightly uphill and into the wind. I would surge and fall back. At one point, a woman with long braided pony tails passed me. How is that possible? I tried to stay with her. I stayed maybe 5 strides behind her for a while. I passed a few runners, but I few passed me, as well. I hit another rough patch and started my last gel. I was running alone for a while and saw another pack to chase down – a woman with a few guys, all in black.
At the 21 mile mark, the trail went up a steep ramp and onto the Owosso Bridge. The view from the bridge was beautiful and serene. Before the race, this is where I thought I would want to push the pace. After crossing the Bridge, trail went downhill for a while and I lengthened my stride to take advantage.
Splits (by course): 7:58, 8:13, 7:59, 8:08, 8:11.
Later Miles, 21 to 26.2 (Copping Street, West Bank Trail, Spencer’s Butte Park, Agate Street, Hayward Field)
The course went through a residential neighborhood before going back onto trail. “Down the Road,” the song from the course video I studied, came up on my playlist. I thought, “Didn’t I arranged for this to play at Mile 21?” I realized, despite the calf cramp, I wasn’t too far off a 3:30 marathon after all! I passed the pack in black. There was a group of people cheering right at the entrance to the West Bank Trail. I gave them a confident head nod as if to reply, “Yeah, I got this!” and they cheered enthusiastically.
At Mile 22, I didn’t know if I could keep this intensity up for 4 more miles. I got passed by a guy in a green shirt and it rattled me a little. Was I about to get passed back by all the runners I’d flown by? I decided to ditch my gel and the mittens I’d been wearing. I was motoring for a good half mile or so before I knew my body was done. The best I could do is try to hold this pace, going faster wasn’t an option.
The course was on a narrow bike path through several parks for the next mile or two. At Mile 23, I turned my Garmin to overall time. It said 3:15:something. Doing a quick calculations, I estimated I would have to run two 7:30 miles to get under 3:30. That was not going to happen. I let up a little and accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to hit my goal. But, I also told myself I shouldn’t be surprised – most of my marathon pace runs were over 8:00 pace. I passed another woman who’d passed me on that first hill and felt good again. I really put up a good fight today. I thought, “Some might say you even ran with guts,” and smiled.
At Mile 25.5, the course left the bike path and went back onto the Riverfront Parkway. They led us down a narrow chute. The grade was downhill, and I repassed the runner in the green shirt. Two women pass me but I don’t remember passing them so I was okay with it.
Clicking off Mile 26, I put my headphones away. I wanted to completely soak in the atmosphere before entering Hayward Field. I high-five some kids before heading into the stadium.
I saw the sign overhead and in an instant, I was on the legendary track! I looked at the bleachers and felt the spongey track under my feet. With less than 200m to go, I channeled my track background and started turning my legs over as if I were in high school again. The announcer said my name and a few things that I couldn’t hear. I crossed the finish line exhausted but completely elated.
Splits (by course): 7:56, 8:19, 8:16, 8:20, 7:58, 1:52 (7:29 pace). Second half=1:45:51.
After getting my medal, volunteers handed me a race themed bag with goodies and a water bottle. After claiming my bag, I rested for a few moments.
Suddenly, I remembered I had to go to the bathroom! I walked around and ate some grilled cheese sandwich samples before grabbing a beer. I met up with a friend who also ran the race before taking a shuttle back to the hotel.
My time was 3:32:04 (8:06 pace) [Log Details]. Interestingly, it’s about the same pace that I ran my last marathon effort workout! I was the 350th finisher out of 1,480 (top 24%), 75th woman (top 11%), 12th female master, and 5th in my age group (top 7%). The time should be a non-guaranteed qualifier for the 2018 New York City Marathon, assuming the registration method and standards stay the same.
Looking back on my race, I thought I was fit enough to run faster but my time wasn’t far off from what my training suggested even with a sore calf! Moreover, it’s my second marathon in a row with a near even split, which means I’m getting better at sensing marathon effort.
It’s been a long training cycle – 20 weeks! I’m looking forward to taking a bit of a break to rest my piriformis and then focusing on some shorter stuff.
Next race: 2017 Capitol Hill Classic on Sunday, May 21st. (My Complete Racing Schedule.)
What an amazing and exhausting day! The weather was perfect and pre-race logistics went great. Then, not even a mile into the race, my calf cramped! I ran through it and the pain finally eased up by Mile 7. But, I had expended so much energy by then that I thought my race was over before it even began. Feeling a little disappointed, I zoned out until the half marathon split. I snapped out of it and I spent the next 10 miles reeling in runners. Along the way, I enjoyed spectacular views of the Willamette River. I started to fade about two miles from the finish. But, what a finish! Running in the footsteps of so many legends on Hayward Field was inspiring!