It’s been nearly a year since the 2014 Eugene Marathon, so I should probably recap it now, huh?
The Eugene Marathon is usually in April, but last year it was on July 27. It moved back to April this year, so the race organizers probably realized late July is a fairly shitty time to run 26.2 miles.
I can’t blame my bad race entirely on the heat, though. At the time, I felt like I trained well for the race, but looking back I realize I made a few mistakes:
- I wasn’t 100% laser-focused on the training or the race. When I registered for the race in fall 2013, I figured I’d have plenty of time to train for the marathon and then shift my attention to planning my October 3 wedding. In reality, training in the spring and summer heat became a drag after a while, and my mentality turned into: “I can’t wait until this marathon is over so I can just focus on the wedding.” My attention was divided between two huge endeavors, making me feel physically and mentally worn out. I tend to race best when I make marathon training my #1 focus, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I flopped at Eugene.
- I did all my training runs, but gave up easily when things felt tough. I remember several long runs during which I got a side stitch or just felt tired and allowed myself frequent and generous breaks. Not even just walking breaks, but sitting-on-the-fence-on-the-side-of-the-trail breaks. That translated into me giving up easily during the race itself.
- I did most of my runs on a soft surface. We moved to a new town in May 2014, and I stuck to the same running route — the East Lake Sammamish Trail — for pretty much the entire training cycle. The trail is super flat, and the majority of it consists of loose gravel over dirt (although segments of it are in the process of being paved, and eventually the whole thing will be paved). I didn’t realize how much this would matter until my body started hurting like crazy partway into running Eugene’s roads, sidewalks, and paved trails. Maybe I should have trained on the same surface I was going to be running on? DUH.
So, here’s how the race went down.
Aaron and I drove to Eugene the day before the race, and stayed at an adorable Airbnb about ¾ of a mile away from the start line. We walked over a mile to the expo and back (maybe not a great idea in hindsight?), and I posed excitedly in front of Hayward Field with my bib.
If you look closely, you can see a group of incredibly fit ladies taking pictures behind me. Eugene was hosting the IAAF World Junior Championships, so the little town was crawling with really, really ridiculously muscular and good-looking young people from around the world. I felt like an atrophied blob next to them. Good times.
We ate dinner at Laughing Planet, which was ridiculously yummy, but probably a little too healthy and not hearty or salty enough. I think I had a rice bowl with some kind of meat and plantains and veggies. My best marathons have been after eating an obscenely greasy hamburger and fries (Chicago) and a super-salty/greasy breakfast (Big Sur). Live and learn.
Our Airbnb hosts had friends in town who were running the marathon, so they said I was welcome to prepare my breakfast (scrambled eggs) in the main house since the other ladies would be doing so anyway. They even insisted I use their eggs! So nice. Again, though, I should have had a heartier breakfast. For out-of-town races, I’ve been really successful with buying eggs, bacon, and potatoes from a restaurant the day before, and then either microwaving the meal or eating it cold. Don’t forget the salt!
So, let’s see, I was on my feet a little too much the day before and wasn’t properly fueled. Combined with my training mistakes, let’s see how this all played out in the race!
I slowly ran the ¾ mile to the start line as Aaron biked alongside me. He was planning to go for a ride and then meet up with me at various points along the course.
For the first time in a marathon, I chose NOT to wear my fuel belt — probably another mistake! I always drink Nuun during training, and the course had water and some other sports drink instead. But since it was going to be a hot day, I wanted to be prepared to ditch my shirt if necessary, and wearing my fuel belt on bare skin would have resulted in wicked chafing. I stuffed Gus into my shorts pockets and planned to rely on aid stations for liquids instead.
I started the race feeling fairly strong, like it was going to be a good day. I ran the first 5K in 28:42 with a 9:14 average pace, and crossed the 10K mark in 57:01 with a 9:11 average pace.
I saw a guy riding his bike off to the side of the course, clearly keeping his significant other company. I thought, “Aww, that’s sweet. It must be her first marathon since he’s riding alongside her.” (Now knowing what happened to me later… HA.)
I think things started feeling tough during mile six or seven — wayyyyy too early to start struggling in a marathon! I was so baffled as to why running felt like slogging at that point. I figured maybe the feeling would pass, but it only got worse.
Knowing that I still had at least three hours of running ahead of me, and the already-warm day was only going to get hotter, I seriously thought about turning off at the half-marathon split… but I knew I would be so disappointed in myself if I did. I paid for a marathon, I trained for a marathon, and I came here to run a marathon. I decided to continue the slog.
Clearly I still smile for cameras even if I’m not feeling good! Ha.
I crossed the 13.1-mile mark in 2:02:12 with a 9:20 average pace — not bad at all, really, but definitely starting to slow down from my earlier pace.
Aaron met me on the course shortly after the halfway mark and I was extremely frustrated and upset. Frankly, I had a bad attitude and had resigned myself to thinking that the rest of the race was going to suck. (I wonder what it would have been like if I was able to maintain a positive attitude? If I hadn’t allowed myself to mentally give up?)
I gave him my tank top and was immediately relieved to feel cooler. I wasn’t even self-conscious because I was too busy being a cranky pants.
At some point, I started taking walk breaks. Not even fast walk breaks. My Garmin was set to pause if I stopped moving (or moved too slowly to register a pace), so my mile splits are not at all accurate because they only show my moving time, not all the time I spent walking slowly, sitting on the curb crying and feeling sorry for myself, flopping down in the grass, dry-heaving on all fours behind a tree, etc. All of those things happened, although I think the majority of them were after mile 20. I’m not proud of them. Now do you see why it took me almost a year to write this dang recap??
I do have accurate splits from the timing mats, though. I crossed the 20-mile mark in 3:15:10 with a 9:46 average pace.
I had anticipated seeing Aaron at the 20-mile mark, so I just focused on getting myself there. Then he wasn’t there! I forget when I found him, but it was a fairly short distance after 20, which felt like forever. And then I was a big baby (walking, flopping on the grass, etc.). He totally had to cut me off from my walk breaks and urge me to keep running, and he stayed by my side as my personal cheerleader for the rest of the race.
I still smiled for the cameras, though! Pictures can be so deceiving.
Remember that girl who I thought needed a bike escort because it was her first marathon? Turns out I needed one for my fourth marathon.
There’s not much else to say about the rest of the miles except that they absolutely sucked and were the hardest miles of my life. It’s quite telling that my Garmin time — which, remember, only represents my moving time — was 16 minutes faster than my chip time. That means I was not moving or moving extremely slowly for a cumulative 16 MINUTES during this race. So sad.
The best photo of the whole race, of course, was taken in the home stretch, just before Aaron was pulled off the course before entering Hayward field. I didn’t even see this camera because I was concentrating so hard on finishing strong, but he totally seized his opportunity.
Finishing the marathon on the track at Hayward Field was still really cool, and I was so emotional because I truly believe I wouldn’t have finished this race without Aaron’s support. He rode beside me for almost six miles at a super-slow pace, so well over an hour. He dealt with my bitching and complaining. He gave me Nuun from his water bottle. He carried my shirt the whole time.
It was an amazing demonstration of love that we both referenced in our wedding vows.
But I had to finish this race alone. And this is a REAL smile!
My official time was 4:33:27 with a 10:26 average pace, which is 18 minutes slower than my previous slowest marathon (my very first one). But I never thought I’d see this finish line, so I’m proud! Plus, I had no idea what my time was during the race since my Garmin wasn’t accurate, so I thought I’d easily be in the five-hour range. I’m very, very happy with 4:33, all things considered.
I learned a lot from this race, but my biggest takeaway is that I shouldn’t sign up for a marathon unless I can fully commit to the training and go into it with a strong mentality. Without that, it’s too easy to give up when things get tough.
I’m not sure I’ll ever have as close to a perfect marathon as I did at Chicago, but I always learn something from every marathon. Eugene taught me a lot, and Big Sur was significantly better as a result.
Maybe now that I’ve written all this down, I won’t make these mistakes for the next one — whenever that may be. 🙂