I don’t write a lot of race reports these days, mostly because I haven;t done any races that I thought worthy of an actual write-up afterward. But I feel that it would be good for me to write up a recap of the Newport Marathon in Oregon.
My training leading up to this race has been sporadic at best. I spent much of last fall and winter enjoying a bit of a hiatus from hard training, and so was not logging very many miles at all. Then, in the spring, when I decided to actually start training, I suffered two injury scares. First, I strained an abdominal and hip flexor muscle, and was afraid that I had a sports hernia. I took a few weeks off for that, then resumed some easy training, when the bottoms of my feet started to hurt. The pain was concerning enough to make me take some more time off and buy new shoes for running and working, along with inserts for my casual shoes. That seemed to do the trick, but by then, the race was less than a month away,
I was able to get an 18-mile and a 20-mile long run, but that is far less than the four-to-six 20-24 milers I like to do before a marathon. Plus, my average mileage was in the low 30s, whereas I like to be in the 50-70 range at least. But, I told myself that my goal was just to run under three hours, so I wasn’t racing it. However, I knew that with my lack of fitness, a sub-3 would be a hard race, and not just an easy long run like I pretended it was going to be. I resolved to run the first 20 miles easy, and try to pick it up in the last 10K to sneak under 3:00.
The gun went off and I made sure to stay behind the 3:00 pace leader. I figured he would try to run as even as possible, so I positioned myself a few meters back, expecting to run in the low-7-minute pace for the first few miles. However, the pacer must have been antsy, because my first few miles were all in the 6:30-6:45 range. It felt easy at that point, but I knew going out that fast would make the latter half of the race challenging. In addition, even though the race is billed as “flat and fast” (aren’t they all), the first 4 miles are constant rolling hills. Once we left the town and got onto Yaquina Bay Rd, it was pancake flat, but those hills in the early miles were nothing to sneeze at.
I found some guys to run with, and oscillated between a few packs as I stopped to pee around mile 9. By 16 miles, we had all glommed into one big pack of guys running 6:45-6:50 pace. It was nice to have some people to run with and just go into autopilot. At mile 20, I was still remarkably feeling good, but I allowed myself to have some negative thoughts. “This is the farthest I have gone in training. I just ran farther than my longest long run, and I still have six more miles to do.” I tried to think about how I was feeling comfortable and relaxed, but the damage was done. As soon as I thought that, it became a challenge for me to keep running the pace. I managed to stay below 7:00 pace through mile 22, but 23 and 24 were both just over 7:00. Still, I was on pace to run under three hours as long as I didn’t blow up.
Mile 25 was a 7:22, and I knew I would have to dig deep in order to run under 3:00. But shortly thereafter, a gorilla holding a refrigerator jumped on my back. My quads and calves started cramping, and my legs threw in the towel. To add insult to injury, the entire last full mile is up a long, slow, grueling hill before going back down a very steep downhill to the finish. I slowed down to an 8:26 for the 26th mile, and slowed down even more for the last, downhill quarter mile. I ended up crossing the finish line in 3:02:11, with all of those two minutes and eleven seconds coming in the last two miles.
So, the question is, am I happy or disappointed with the result? The truth is, I’m pretty happy. A 3:02 marathon on abysmal training is pretty good for me. And now that I’ve given up on trying to nab personal best times, it’s interesting, and challenging, to see what kind of times I can run on abbreviated training. So, now I know that I can run a 3:02 marathon with almost no long runs, mileage, or workouts. And honestly, that’s pretty cool. Now, I’m not saying I was at zero fitness; I had a few 40+ mile weeks and the aforementioned long runs, but I would have pegged my fitness at no more than 60%. So, again, running 3:02 off of that is something I can be pretty proud of.
Plus, this is the first time I have ever finished a marathon and wanted to train. Usually, a marathon is the culmination of a long and taxing training cycle for me, and I look forward to taking a week off to recover. As soon as I finished this one, though, I wanted to run more. It lit a fire under my ass to actually log a few decent months of training and get back into good shape. With any luck, this fall will be the time for me to run some good times again.