Portland Marathon Race Report
I am a Marathoner!
Wow! What an experience! I ran my first marathon. I feel so fortunate to have been able to do that, something that, quite frankly, a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have thought I could ever do. Not sure it was even on my bucket list. But thanks to my training partner, Christine, who signed up for it, and the principle of cosmic signs (this being the 40th anniversary of the Portland Marathon, two weeks after my 40th birthday, and held on my mother’s birthday), I signed up!
The course is very nice, a couple of hills (elevation profile below. What was neat for me, was that I had either run or cycled every bit of this course at some point, so it was familiar to me. This course included bits of the Providence Bridge Pedal, Seattle to Portland Ride, Shamrock Run, Portland Triathlon, Run Like Hell, and Hood to Coast Run, and it was really fun for me to reminisce about each of those events as I ran this course.
It was neat to hear folks from out of the area running this course, because it is so scenic. I was running next to someone from out of town at the beginning and I really enjoyed hearing him praise Portland when we entered China Town through the Chinese Gate.
I haven’t run other marathons, but the other thing that is so wonderful about this event is all the music along the way. Every couple of miles was a group, steel drums, marimbas, singers, drummers, bagpipers, etc. I wish I had pictures! They were on overpasses, on lift cranes, alongside the roadway. My favorite was the Asian drum group in Chinatown.
There were a couple of hills on the course, the most noticeable to me was at mile 17, which is the approach to the St. John’s Bridge. I actually don’t really remember the hill before mile 5!
My Portland Marathon Experience
Christine and I went to the Expo at the Portland Hilton to pick up our bibs and timing chips. It was soooo crowded. We really didn’t go through much of the Expo since there were so many people, and, I just really wanted to spend the day before the race resting.
The unfortunate part, was that Christine was not feeling well at all. She didn’t feel any better by late that evening and was running a slight fever and ended up having to withdraw from the event. Really a bummer for her after raising so much money for the American Cancer Society AND the impetus for me signing up for the marathon!
I headed into town about 5:20 AM from my house and found a great parking spot in a parking garage at 1st and Jefferson. The hardest part of the whole thing was finding the bag check! The map on the back of the bib showed bag check at 3rd and Salmon, but that was only for the B wave; bag check for my wave, F, was at 2nd and Taylor, so, a little confusion for me to start with.
Weather was perfect, overcast, 55 degrees. I had made a garbage bag poncho to wear while waiting, expecting rain, but I didn’t need it and ended up disposing of it in the garbage at the start.
With 12,000 runners and walkers, you wouldn’t think I’d run into someone I knew, but I did! One of our new Portland Triathlon Club members, Zach Goodman, was lined up in my wave about 25 feet away. It was really nice to have a familiar face!
So, about 10 minutes to start and I have to go to the bathroom…gah! I should have gone. I was worried I didn’t have enough time to do it, but, our wave started about 10 minutes after the first wave, and the time is based on your timing chip, so it wouldn’t have been a big deal if I was late. Lesson learned. I figured that I’d stop at the first aid station, but when we got there at mile 2, there was a huge line, so I passed it up. By that time, nature took care of having to pee (sorry, this might be TMI for some) and I didn’t have the urge for the other function anymore.
My first half was FANTASTIC! I really, really enjoyed this part. I felt great. I watched my pace and made sure I slowed down when I was hitting 9:00 miles. I tried to stay at 10:00 mile so I wouldn’t wear myself out. My goal pace for the race was 10:30. I saw Portland Triathlon Club member Sherrie Austin, who was doing the half-marathon, around mile 10 after then turnaround on Front Avenue, and Zach Goodman at mile 15, who was looking strong!
The plan was to run without walking until mile 17, which is the hill up to the St. John’s Bridge. However, at mile 15.5…I REALLY needed to go to the bathroom. I’ve never had GI issues on a run before, but experienced it this race. I had just passed an aid station and knew there’d be something ahead, and fortunately found a lone portapotty at mile 16. Another lesson learned…a one piece triathlon suit may not be the best thing to wear during a marathon. It took about 7 minutes to use the bathroom since I had to completely undress to do it.
It started to drizzle at mile 15.5 as well. But it felt good. I walked up the bridge approach and then ran the St. John’s Bridge. At this point, my legs felt very heavy. I switched to a run 0.75 mile and walk 0.25 mile regimen. I adjusted this for hills (ran downhills to take advantage of faster pace time) and aid stations (walked 0.25 miles from start of aid station). Rain stopped about mile 17.5.
For nutrition I had made my own gel from dates, coconut nectar, lemon juice and zest, and salt, and carried a 5 oz flask of it with me. My first gel was at aid station around mile 6 and then every few miles after that at aid stations so I could follow the gel with water. It worked great for me. I did do a vegan cheat and had some gummy bears at about mile 18, and think I will carry vegan fruit chews with me in future long events because it was really nice to have something to chew.
Mile 19…I need a portapotty AGAIN! Oh no! Found one shortly, and another 7 minute delay.
Mile 20 I saw Becky and James Hillary from the Portland Triathlon Club and gave them both big sweaty hugs! I remember James asking me if I was having fun and I shouted a resounding, “Yes!!”
By mile 22, I was GIDDY! I don’t know why, but I couldn’t stop smiling! I was surprised at how emotional I was during this event. I cried at the beginning, at the beginning of the Bluff, on the Broadway Bridge, and at the end! Mile 23, with 3 miles to go, I was tired. I told myself that this was nothing different than starting the run at the end of a sprint triathlon, just pretend that you just got off the bike and you only have three miles to run to the finish…that kinda helped.
Broadway Bridge, 23.5 miles…I saw my dad. Well, my dad died February 2008. In the middle of the bridge, all alone in the oncoming lane was a spectator who looked EXACTLY like my dad. I was worried that I was hallucinating and asked the person running next to me if she could see that man standing there, and she did. It was a very startling thing, and it made me start to cry again. I do an internal shout-out to my dad at the start of every event, and I know he’s with me when I race. I really had to talk myself out of hyperventilating and crying at this point and be thankful for an amazing coincidence to help me to the end of the race.
The last two miles were a blur. I walked/ran them. I really had to be in my head to get it done. The crowd lining the course was wonderful, shouting my name and cheering as I approached. Turned two corners off of Naito and there it was, the finish line! I had pulled my earphones out so I could hear them announce my name, Cindy Thompson, a Portland Marathon finisher! Arms in the air for the photo finish!
My official marathon time is 05:04:30. I was shooting for a 5 hour marathon, so I think that’s pretty good! Removing my bathroom breaks, with all the undressing and redressing time, would take me down to a 4:54:53. So, for next time, I will wear running shorts instead of the trisuit, and will go to the bathroom RIGHT before the start.
I felt pretty good all in all. My feet and ankles were achy at the end. I grabbed some food, picked up my coin, pendant, baby Douglas fir tree to plant, and had my official finisher photo taken, then headed to my car. Once home, it was straight to an ice bath, a warm bath, and a vegan veggie pizza for a treat! I iced my right ankle, which was the most sore, did some foam rolling and stretching before bed. I used a heating pad on my thighs and hip flexors while I slept.
This morning, the right ankle is a little sore and thighs are sore. I have three blisters on my right foot, on big and second toe where they rub together, and on the pad of the 4th toe. Like I suspected last week, my right running shoe wore out. I really didn’t think it was a good idea to wear new shoes on my first marathon, so I paid a bit of a price with my right foot. Not sure how my foot would have fared with wearing a new shoe. I have a sports massage this afternoon and am really looking forward to that.
Thank you for everyone for your support and cheering and inspiration! It has been a fantastic year for me. I will be posting a year-end reflection in a couple of days. Hard to believe it has only been a year since I started this adventure!
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Cindy wants you to be Trimazing—three times better than amazing! After improving her health and fitness through plant-based nutrition, losing 60 pounds and becoming an adult-onset athlete, she retired from her 20-year firefighting career to help people just like you. She works with people and organizations so they can reach their health and wellness goals.
Cindy Thompson is a certified Health Coach, Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, and Firefighter Peer Fitness Trainer. She is a Food for Life Instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional, and Harvard Medical School Culinary Coach, teaching people how to prepare delicious, satisfying, and health-promoting meals.
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