I knew going into the Portland Marathon this morning that I wasn’t prepared for a good race. I was right.
The words I repeated over and over in my head, spawned from the Mumford and Sons concert I attended on Thursday, were “keep the earth below my feet.” I should have realized while I was running that the next line of that song is “for all my sweat, my blood runs weak.”
Everything ran weak for me.
The Portland Marathon has a great course, incredible organization and volunteers, and top-notch finisher prizes. It did not provide decent weather.
I set a new record today for earliest Jeff Thomas moment. That brain blip that jumps straight to: “if a car were to take me out right now, I would be done for the day.” Unfortunately, my first Jeff marathon thought came about 55 minutes before the race started. Rain pelted me, as I waited in the port-o-let line. The wind picked up, and I knew a long morning lay ahead.
I had several issues today. Even though I was able to use the bathroom before starting, I still had to make a lengthy stop just six miles in. The rain never stopped, and the wind stayed around as well. Miles 12-17 were all uphill, with runners dropping their heads heading straight into the storm’s teeth.
My legs were my biggest problem. Bad weather isn’t a new thing for me, as I can remember at least five marathons that were just as brutal as today’s race. But for most of those races, my base mileage going in was much higher. I entered the Portland marathon coming off four of my lowest mileage months in the past four years. With only one 20+ mile run since May, I wasn’t prepared.
I started having piriformis pain at mile six, and by mile 15, I felt like I had Icy Hot on butt and right hamstring. In mile 20, I developed a cramp in my right arch. Many who have run either a marathon or long run will know that scary feeling, when a sharp pain comes out of nowhere. Cramps are the worst, especially when they spring up in your foot. With 6 miles left, I thought I was done. But I was able to hold my pace partially.
My race plan followed a sliding path downward. I was all about a negative split at the start, but that quickly changed. Determined to power through, I focused on 3:25. Then came sub 3:30, which quickly changed to “don’t walk.”
I didn’t walk. And I also got an incredible tour of the city. The Portland Marathon definitely gave me a feel for the whole area of Portlandia.
I saw what looked like an aid station or hospital sign ahead as I ran uphill around mile 15. When I got closer, I realized it was a marijuana shop. I considered stopping and asking for ibuprofen when I thought it was a medical stop. When I saw what it was, I was highly disappointed (my pun game is terrible).
I saw two homeless tent city areas, one with a sign reading “de-criminalize homelessness.” The bands along the course had incredible diversity. One was titled “Rose City Gay Freedom Band.” I passed an entire club (the Pirates of Portlandia) that seemed drunk. The pirates, with complete costumes and cannon firing, growl at runners. My favorite bad was a group of bagpipers around 16 miles in.
I feel like I experienced the most authentic Portland possible.
It rained all day. Once we left downtown, a thick fog lifted lifted off the ground and slowly made its way higher and higher up the timberwood-covered hills all around. It looked like God was peeling the fog back away from the roadways a few inches at a time. We ran through a few industrial areas as well as downtown. But the incline took us close to some tall hills covered in dense foliage. I pictured Bigfoot out there somewhere, peering down at us crazy marathoners.
The crowd support was incredible, considering how nasty the weather was. Maybe Portland residents are accustomed to driving rain and fog. My personalized bib led to a lot of people yelling “Gig ’em” at me. Which wouldn’t have been near as much fun had the Aggies lost to Tennessee yesterday. But Texas A&M was able to pull out a double-overtime win, so my Aggie socks, hat, and bib message worked out well. My favorite, however, was a girl who yelled “Big ’ems” at me. And to the girl who blazed past me in mile 22 all decked out in Longhorn gear: I hope you had a great race, and you are welcome. She told me she wanted to beat me because of my A&M hat. I hope she set a new PR. I also hope her favorite team loses every game it plays.
There are so many positives I can take from today. First, I got to cross off another state. Now I have 26 down, sub four. More than 50 percent finished with my 50 states challenge. I can also use this race as a jumping off point to start building mileage back. I simply need to make sure I’m foam rolling and strength training all upcoming week to recover correctly and address muscle imbalances I know I have right now.
A bad race is just a chance to learn and improve for next time. I’m coming for you Indianapolis.