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October 06, 2008

Running Portland

I ran the Seattle Marathon three years ago because I wanted to run a marathon, and I ran the Bellingham Bay Marathon last year because I wanted run a marathon without taking walking breaks. I hit those goals, but I wasn't happy with my times (4:44 and 4:47, respectively), so I signed up for the Portland Marathon, which was yesterday, with the goal of completing one a bit faster.

I had the same rough time targets as in Bellingham last year: definitely hit 4:30, 4:22 would be nice, 4:15 would be fantastic. My training had gone well; I hadn't gotten sick and I had completed 3 20+ mile runs. I had also discovered just how important the weather is to running. I read somewhere (I think in Wired, talking about the Nike Ice Vest) that when running your body spends 75% of its energy regulating temperature, and this was my experience on the long runs; on the two cloudy ones I had no trouble breaking a 10-minute-mile pace, while on the sunny day I got dehydrated a couple of miles from the end and had to stop to guzzle 40 ounces of water from a fountain (I know it was 40 ounces because it filled the two water bottles on my Amphipod Full-Tilt 20-20, which fulfilled my long quest for a hydration belt that works for me). Then there was the debacle of the Seafair Half-Marathon in June, where I did catch the bus to the starting line on time, but after slogging through 88-degree heat to finish the first half in just over an hour, I hit the wall when I mistook Gleukos sports drink for water, walked every hill in the second half, and straggled across the finish line in 2:17:20.

The long-term forecast in the week leading up to Portland looked like the weather was going to cooperate: 55 degrees and partly cloudy, which is close to ideal for a long race. This turned out to be half right. It was 55 degrees but it drizzled for much of the time, and the sun kept well-hidden behind the clouds. Still it wasn't windy and I can't complain about the weather.

The race started out well. I've worked out a standard nutrition plan: one packet of chocolate GU 15 minutes before the race starts, then two Clif Shot Bloks every half hour, washed down with 5 ounces of Gatorade/water mix. Since the race has water stations I also drink a cup of water at each station and drink a bit less of the Gatorade (which I am carrying with me) so it lasts longer. I was cruising along at a pretty good pace, ahead of the 4:15 pace group by a couple of minutes at the turnaround at mile 9. I reached the midpoint of the race in 2:01:18 and briefly fantasized about breaking 4 hours, but I realized this was impossible once I hit the climb to the St. John's Bridge at mile 16. I ran up it, but it definitely took the wind out of my sails (I distracted myself by noticing that the design, by David Steinman, is a bit unusual; the descenders are attached to the truss, which is above the deck, rather than directly to the deck). The very peak of the bridge is mile 17; I was happy to have hit the high point of the race but also was tired, and my knees were starting to hurt.

At that point I had to grit my teeth a bit and pound out some miles. I knew I was starting to slow down, but I managed to keep ahead of the 4:15 pace group until about mile 22. I let the pace group drag me along for a while, but fell behind at a water station. I knew I wasn't going to hit 4:15 but was almost certainly going to hit 4:20, so I didn't stress too much. I wound up finishing in 4:18:55, which is a PR by 25 minutes and nothing to sneeze at. The chocolate milk they handed out in the finish area tasted great.

Besides showing basic results, the Portland Marathon website has some other interesting info. Start here for my basic time and where I placed relative to everyone else; then click "Next" to see my average speed and pace (9:53 miles) and a view of who finished right around me, and then Next again to see my pace for different sections of the race: 9:21 miles for the first 6.2 miles, 9:10 miles to the halfway point, 10:12 miles for the next 8 miles, and 10:57 miles for the last 5.1 miles. Actually I know I hit mile 23 with the 4:15 pace group and the pacer announced they were 10 seconds ahead, so that would be 3:43:40, so I ran the last 3.2 miles in 35:15, just a hair over 11 minute miles. The main results page for the marathon shows the total average pace at different points: I was at 9:16 at the halfway point and still at 9:37 after 21.1 miles. If I had maintained my 10:12 mile pace (from miles 13.1 to 21.1) for the last 5.1 miles, I still would have missed 4:15 by about 15 seconds, and of course that 10:12 is misleading; I was continuing to crank out 9:15 miles until the St. John's Bridge, and then started going slower. Arguably I could have paced myself a bit earlier, but I think a slowdown in the second half was inevitable. It didn't help that my socks were soaked to the bone, which made even the downhills painful as my feet slid around in my shoes (after Bellingham last year I lost a toenail on each foot; I think the same toenail on my right foot is doomed this year, and I'm not too confident in the left foot either).

The net is that I'm quite happy overall with the run...and I might even run another one some day. New York, anyone?

Posted by AdamBa at October 6, 2008 09:12 PM