Gail and I had quite a few firsts on Sunday. Gail is training two runners for their first marathons this year, Staci and Mary. Today was to be Staci's day. Gail would be running with Staci for the entire race. Mary will be running Eugene in a few weeks with Gail on her first Marathon. Mary was running the half marathon and talked about trying to break 2 hours. I said I would be glad to pace her and get her a time somewhere between 1:55 and 2 hours. I would then trot my way to the finish line of the full marathon. So our plans were set.
The bus ride to the start.
We got to the Banks High School and stayed warm in the gym. Fellow Slug Katie was running her second half in two weeks so we had a great big group. We hopped on the school bus that was to drive us the 20 or so miles out to Vernonia and the start line. We chatted away the trip and it went real fast. As the bus arrived Kelly Barten jumped on the bus and told us where everything was located. She did such a great job of color coding everything. Plus she said "Oh you got the Henry's on your bus!" She always cracks me up. Once we got to the start they had rooms open for us so we could all stay warm. It was a real nice set up.
FB, Detour and Staci staying warm.
The fast women runners pose for a pix.
Staci, Mary and Katie.
"Are we excited or what?"
We walked up to the start line and got in the group about mid pack. I usually like to start near the end but this race was not chip timed and since Mary wanted a good time I figured we should be in the middle somewhere. We did our little Slug cheer then off we went in cloudy cool weather with just a touch of mist.
Tell us what the purple shirt girl saying to the white shirt guy???? Hmmmm.....
The start was on a road so we could use both lanes. There was probably 400 runners or so. I don't like to start fast but Mary took off like a shot. I tried to keep her in sight but she was moving running about a 8:20 pace or so which is tough for me at first. I actually thought she might lose me but you see this allot at races as the adrenaline usually gives runners a boost for 10 minutes or so and then they come back down to a slower pace.
We had some nice downhill sections to get warmed up with as we rolled into downtown Vernonia. I caught up to Mary around the one mile point and she wondered what had happened to me? We chatted a bit and I called out our pace. We entered the park and ran the couple mile loop around the lake. We were running 8:30 to 8:45 pace. I figured earlier that if we ran around a 8:45 pace we could get a 1:55 finish time but also that pace gave us time in the bank to finish around 1:58-59 or so.
Around mile 3 we chatted with "the woman in purple shorts" as Mary called her. She asked what races we were doing and told her what our goal finish was for Mary. She felt this was a tad fast for her but more on that later. Mary was strong and her breathing was good. I just prompted her to slow just a bit. As we came upon the first few aid stations they didn't have enough volunteers to keep the water cups filled. Mary decided against carrying a bottle so she missed water in 2 of the first 3 aid stops. This was to hurt her later she admitted.
Mile 4 feeling good. (photo by Kelly Barten)
We got on the man Banks-Veronia trail and began the run through the woods. We had a bit of a headwind at times and I was worried on the backside of the marathon course it would slow me down. Around mile 7 we start a very easy climb, hardly noticeable. But I begin to hear Mary's breathing get just a bit out of sync. We both have our tunes on so not a lot is said. But I try to keep her up to date on our pace which has settled to around 8:50 or so. We have time in the bank which is a good thing. Purple shorts lady commented that our pace was rock solid. She wanted to break 2 hours but didn't think she could do it. I said "for a case of beer you can join us". So she tagged along 10 yards or so behind.
Mary having a good time around mile 5
At mile 10 the climb starts. For some reason people think this is a downhill half but it actually has some good easy climb to it. Mary struggled here a bit. Either wanting to slow way down or stop. I would promote taking baby steps or just walking. She would break for only a short time then be right back at her good sub 9 pace. This happened a few times and I could tell she wanted to give into the pain. I suggested she drop a big "F" bomb out loud so she could vocalize some of her stress. Which, she promptly did with much vigor! But she started running hard right away.
At mile 12 she had issues. She had really run hard and this hill and probably my constant chatter caused her to stop a couple of times. I always kept saying, "just walk we got the time, keep moving". And she would move again. Even at 12.5 miles she fought those demons. Finally the steep downhill section at the finish came into view. I pointed it out and Mary took off, she was cheering and telling all the runners that they got this one done.
Half Marathon finish line.
We crossed the highway and it was kind of confusing. We had to follow the trail with a 90 degree left turn. Mary stopped and thought she had already crossed the finish line. I turned and yelled. "Mary no! Keep running! Keep running! The finish is up here!" So she got going again. I had looked at my watch and it said 1:57:50 and I was worried we might mess up the sub 2 with a mistake. She raced across the finish line in grand style with arms outstretched. She finished with a 1:58:08 and a average pace of 9:01. She did great and we high fived or guess you call it high ten when you used both hands. She was pretty happy. She came in 33rd woman and 7th in her age group.
Well now I had another 13 miles to go. I went to the aid station where the Reisinger Twins were running the show. I took a few minutes to collect my thoughts, chat, fill my water bottle and....eat a Twinkie they had out. (Those things are darn good!) Off I went on the short steep climb back up on the course. I stopped to water the trees once then got my head back in the game. I didn't eat anything on the first 13 miles so I knew I would need to get my fueling back on track quick. I started eating Chomps, then a gel 30 minutes later and tried to keep that up for the rest of the race. I was slightly behind in hydration but it was a cool day so I could get away with that.
"Must have Twinkie, must have Twinkie"
For about a mile or so my legs were hurting pretty good. I wasn't sure how much I had left for the race but my goal was to get Mary a good time then just plod to the marathon finish, not caring what my final time was.
Mile 14 to 20 was like this. So was my brain.
Around mile 14.5 I started moving pretty good. The course peaks out at around 1100 feet then has that nice gentle railway grade to just over mile 20. Soon I was in a groove and cruising back at 8:40 pace or so. The miles clicked by in the dense rain forest of the Oregon Coast Mountains. I was passing everyone. Only at mile 19 or so as I stopped to fill my bottle did anyone pass on the second half of the course. A woman my age who was really moving along. I kept her in sight and would eventually pass her back as she began walking around mile 22 or so.
I started thinking, "can I break 4 hours?" I was doing the math and it just wasn't going to work out. I would have to go full out, max effort and then it still might not work. I took a 3 minute break after Mary finished and that really dashed any chance, but at the time I thought I wouldn't have the gas to try. I just kept motoring on. My legs ached like crazy but with this being my 81st marathon length or longer race I knew this pain well. You are not going to die but it sure isn't fun.
The course really flattens out around mile 21. My pace dropped to almost 9:17 on every mile til the finish. I was steady but not real fast. I kept passing folks but it was pretty thin by this time. Around mile 23 Mary came back out and ran a bit with me. It was great to have a few minutes of company plus she gave me the update on how Staci and Gail were doing.
Got back into Banks and ran along the sidewalks of town til the High School was in view. Kelly Jean cheered us on as we entered the parking lot. I got on to the track and had to run one lap to get my 26.2 miles done. I crossed the line feeling very satisfied with my time of 4:03:33. I was 47th overall and 4 in the old man age group. Another one done, that was fun.
I walked around and cheered other runners in. Talked with Steve, Kelly and others. Later on Purple Shorts Lady came up and thanked me for getting her a PR on her race today. She didn't think she could run that fast. That was great to here. I love when folks take it a notch up and grab that goal that seems out of reach. But hey! Where is my case of Beer???
Gail and Staci with a quarter mile to go!
Mary joins me and says Staci and Gail are close. Soon we see them enter the lot. They both look awesome! Staci had some injuries and her training was definitely not what it should have been she was mostly pain free by race day. She really wanted this and you could see it in her face. The last 20 yards she took off sprinting. She crossed the line just under 4:45 with her husband and family there to celebrate her awesome accomplishment. I really enjoyed watching the excitement of all of this. I give Gail a hug and tell her what a great job she did. We all walk back to the school and talk about the days events.
Staci getting her medal
Gail and Staci pose for a finish photo.
Staci, Mary and Gail trash talking!
It was a great first marathon. Very few problems and lots of fun. I really like these little races like this. Especially when they are out in the country.
Well Gail and I have Eugene Marathon up in a few weeks. We did it about 5 years ago so I am excited to go back. Marathons are fun. You are just not totally wasted like I feel after many 50k's and almost all 50 milers. I never had any issues of light headiness like I did after Pac Rim. So maybe I should just do marathons??? .......Nah! Thats stupid!