Abbe and I grabbed a cab and headed to JFK on Thursday at 5:30AM. I was sleepy, but this getting up early for races thing has become the norm, so I wasn’t too out of sorts. I was teetering on that fine line of ‘Am I awake for good?’ or ‘Should I try and nap on the plane?’ I opted for the latter and passed on a coffee.
After a 60 minute snooze I felt fresh. I am reading three books for the first time since college and so I started bouncing between them. I am reading ‘Atonement’ for Book Club, ‘The King in Yellow’ which is super weird and I forgot why I even chose it and ‘Calypso,’ David Sedaris’s latest. (He is my favorite author).
A dear friend of mine from college days, Mikey, lives in Portland so we were very excited to spend some time with him. He picked us up and we set off for lunch.
Abbe’s friend Brad Farmerie (chef and owner of Saxon and Parole) had sent a very extensive list of places to eat. Since Abbe has a love of all things sandwiches we headed to Lardo. It did not disappoint! I might also note that it was gorgeous out… 75 and sunny, so sitting outside felt amazing.
We checked out Mikey’s place and chilled for a bit before headed to dinner at Xico. Susan and her brother Ryan joined us. After another amazing meal we jumped in the car and headed to Eugene.
As a runner, how could you not be excited to wake up in TrackTown USA? Bill Bowerman invented the waffle shoe here that would later become the sneaker that we now know and take for granted! He also cofounded Nike, you may have heard of them? And then there is the legendary PRE!
Anyway, we woke up and went for a walk to the stadium which was through Alton Baker Park across the street. As we exited and were on school grounds Abbe said, “Hey look, the track team!” It was a group of runners at first that then turned into a thousand. Then we realized, “Oh! It’s the 5K!” You chase two really fast runners wearing the Krusteaz Pancake outfits in the 5K and hope to beat them. Holy smokes it must be hot in those pancake suits while running a 5k, gross.
We eventually made our way down onto the field, like the actual football field, and were able to cheer on the finishers as they came in. Tomorrow we would be finishing the same, right on the 50 yard line!
Did Someone Say Lunch?
We headed to the Tap and Growler for some some sandwiches to fuel up. My strategy the day of a race is to focus on proteins for lunch and carbs for dinner, so I had a pork burrito bowl. We were also taking it pretty light on beer and focusing on hydration.
Birds of Prey
Fun Fact: I love hawks and eagles and owls and anything that is a bad ass bird. Hummingbirds too. Did you know that Central Park’s Red Tailed Hawk population is booming? So I guess I’m a bird guy. We went to the Cascades Raptor Center to kill time and because, whoa, so many amazing creatures in one place!
It was on the side of a hill and had 25 small enclosures where the birds were kept. I at first got very sad seeing these majestic creatures penned up, but then upon further reading learned that all of them had been injured or basically could not survive in the wild. We even saw 3 Bald Eagles… what!?
Dinner was at Ciao Pizza Trattoria. We had planned it carefully weeks before after studying the menu. It was a family owned homemade pasta kinda spot. I opted for their version of linguine bolognese which has been my go-to pasta for the last few years. It didn’t disappoint one bit. Abbe, Susan and I were in bed by 9:30 with a 5AM wakeup call. Plenty of slumber time.
I had the wildest dreams I can remember in some time on this night. I only write this so I can reflect back. I was actually running a race of some distance, in and out of buildings, and kept getting sidetracked which for some reason didn’t stress me out. I was also talking to God, yes God, which is odd as I have spent 2 days in church ever. He (yes it was a he) was helping me dress and he was very relaxed. It was so weird and yet simultaneously cool, like hanging out with Prince. What does it all mean? Was it battle preparations for the next day?
We all woke around the same time. Getting older has one advantage, waking up early is getting easier. The temperature was 38 degrees and would climb to 50-55 at the end of the race. The ladies were wearing singlets but since I tend to run a bit cooler when I race I made a game time decision to switch to my long sleeve Battalion shirt. I had brought numerous options to choose from including rain gear because… always be prepared!
Our Lyft driver was great. She got us to where we needed to be and she was very calm about it all. Thank you. We scurried off in the cool morning air to hit baggage check and maybe a bathroom stop. Our timing could not have been more perfect. As we were exiting the stadium, goals accomplished, we had 5 minutes to game time. We said goodbye and popped into our respective corrals, ready to crush.
And so it begins…
The gun went off and we took off pretty quickly. I was right behind the 3 Hour pacer, which was perfect as my goal was to go just under 3, maintaining a 6:50ish pace as I had done in New York last Fall.
Sometimes you got it and sometimes you don’t. I tend to know within the first mile how my day is going to go. That doesn’t mean I won’t finish, it just means this thing is gonna be rough. Today I felt liquid, and I knew I had something in me. Mile 1 ticked off at a 6:56, which was a good warm up, but I needed slightly better if I was going to hit my goal.
As we entered Mile 2 I saw Mikey cheering on the right. We were running through the city, which consists of low lying buildings so the sun was just piercing the roadway. It was really pretty actually.
The next couple of miles were a series of straightaways through some fun neighborhoods. The crowds were very energetic and kept us moving. Miles 3-7 were under 6:50 by a few seconds.
We were now on an out-n-back section of straightaway that would conclude at Mile 10. It was really shady with shards of sunlight piercing through the trees to our left. Once we made the turnaround at Mile 7.5 we would be in full sunlight. I was plugging along pretty steadily.
I was having a great race thus far and Mile 8 and 9 were a 6:38 and 6:39, which one would say is too fast for what I had been training for. When you train for a marathon, you are only as good as the conditions on race day allow you to be. You are at the mercy of the weather gods. Today, on this morning, the gods were with us. If there were any time to dial it up it would be when conditions were in your favor. I thought to myself, ‘You’re going a bit fast.’ and then looking around and taking it all in I thought, ‘Conditions this perfect only arise every few races, set it off.’ And so I did, all smiles. This is when I passed the 3 hour pace group.
At Mile 10 I saw, or rather heard Ryan yell “Go Chris!” I knew it was him as we had just met, and people I have just met call me by my first name only. Or, if it were a female voice it would have been my Mom.
The Halfway Point
On the Mile 12 straightaway I saw Mikey who gave me a solid high five AND shot this video. 6:41 pace. It was here I took my first gel.
I was very curious how the Half Marathon and Full Marathon breakaway point would look. Would I be all by myself? It’s hard to tell who is racing the Half versus the Full until you hit this moment.
At 13, we pulled hard left and some of the guys I had been racing with hung on. We had a solid 3-5 guys in race formation going hard as we entered this park/bike path area. It was my least favorite part of the course as it weaved along the river and offered no insight to who was overtaking you and it made footing a bit tedious. In times past when the 3 hour pacers pass me I tend to fail, so I was hyperconscious as to where they were and at Mile 14 they were on my ass!
I knew I had to keep my pace under 6:50 to avoid those punks, so I held to that, even though I was now in a bit of pain. My energy was great, but I was feeling it in my legs. 6:42, 6:47. 6:40 to the 17 Mile turnaround on the other side of the river.
I was looking across the river now, in case I saw Abbe. She never left me all day as I knew this was a bigger race for her as she has never qualified for the big show, Boston, and this was going to be her day for it. I didn’t see her, but conditions were favorable, so I was hopeful.
The Annoying Guy
From miles 10-19 I ran with this beefy annoying guy. When people would pass him he would look at them in anger, which is odd as a marathon is you versus you, unless you are an Olympian, which homeslice was not. He was doing this odd thing with me. Every time we hit an aid station my pace was consistent as I grabbed water and gatorade. He walked the aid stations to take in fluids. Then, 30 seconds later I heard this sporadic pitter patter of footfall as he caught up to me and then leveled off.
I knew he couldn’t keep these antics up, but I also didn’t care to ruin my own race. Until… this pack of young 20 somethings started cruising by in flying V formation and I decided to hang on. We clocked mile 19 at a 6:33 and it felt great. I never saw that guy again.
Miles 20-22 were 6:45, 6:42 and 6:40. We were cruising in some shaded forest paths now and I knew I had this thing in the bag if I kept up and didn’t falter, which was of course possible in Miles 23-26. I didn’t see Mikey or Ryan and was wondering where Abbe was, hopeful she was having as good a day as I was.
Mile 23-24 was on the open field of Alton Baker Park and had no shade from the sun. I felt it immediately and my pace entered the 6:50-6:56 range, the slowest all day. I knew I had just a few miles to go and had created a solid buffer for my sub3 time, so i wasn’t very stressed. I thought about pouring water on my head at an aid station but was glad I didn’t as we finally reentered the shaded forest. I would have been chilled.
Right before Mile 25 I felt something odd. Fatigue in the way of energy, not leg power. I had one gel in my pocket and even though I had a mile to go I decided to take it. Did it help? Yes. A few moments later I had a slight sugar and salt energy surge, helping me push through.
Mile 26 was a 6:36 pace and I was reaching hard for that sub3, my mind was a mess. The clock said 2:51:xx and I had to get around the stupid stadium. It took forever! In reality it took 6 minutes.
I turned and entered the stadium feeling like I was going to have a heart attack and saw the time, 2:57! I have in the past withheld emotion from my finishes, but have recently wanted to embrace it, and so I did.
As I crossed I threw up my arm and yelled “Hell Yea!” (not evident in the pictures) and then let forth a wave of excited screams. This was marathon number 20 and I had not only gone under 3, I had gone 2:57:05, my third best time ever at a 6:45 pace. After gathering my medal I stopped on the side of the field and looked around at it all and laughed a bit, tears in my eyes. You see, the glory of a marathon is fleeting and very personal. You must savor those seconds after it as they cannot be recreated, and so I did.
Abbe and Susan
I gathered my belongings from baggage and headed into the stadium where I soon found Mikey and Ryan on the 50 Yard line. I had a stream of texts coming in from the friends that were tracking me, thanks to you all! But where were Abbe and Susan?
Right on cue Susan showed at 3:32, nailing a BQ, followed by Abbe with a 3:34! I yelled my face off. I was so elated. Abbe has been chasing the Boston Qualifier for some time now and she had finally caught it. It was an epic day.
The five of us celebrated with beers once we all found each other. Basking in the warm sun, legs happy again, we had all achieved our very challenging goals and were all smiles.
After the Party it’s the Afterparty
We all went to lunch at the Bier Stein before heading back to Portland.
Dinner was at Pok Pok, the ultimate Thai restaurant. New Yorkers might know as we had a spot in Brooklyn that closed sadly. Not surprisingly, it was amazing… some of the best Thai food I have ever had without actually going to Thailand.
We hit Richmond Bar for one more drink before calling it.
After the Afterparty… it’s Monday
We had planned to have an entire day in Portland after the race. After sleeping in and like a thousand cups of coffee Abbe and I went to a Chinese Garden in the heart of Portland. It was really cool and very relaxing.
Once Susan joined us we went to Country Cat Kitchen for some heavy food to reload. I ordered the fried chicken because I love fried chicken and may even consider myself a slight connoisseur on the topic. I took a few bits of piece one (of two) and told Abbe it was a 9. I was in heaven. I was also taking my time so I could make sure this moment wouldn’t just slip by. By the time I had dialed into the second piece everything had settled and it was even better than the first. “Abbe, this is a 10.” Holy cow!
Next up we hit the Mississippi area for some bar hopping. Mikey and Susan’s friend Jason met us. We eventually arrived at Prost where another dear friend from college, Pete, was in wait! Man, it was good to have everyone back again telling old stories and laughing.
We took a 6:20AM flight the next day. It was sad to see all that fun go by but it was time to return.
I (we) trained really hard on this one. I really enjoyed the ride and every one of those challenging runs. Especially the ‘Bridges’ long runs, and the feeling of getting one step closer to accomplishment after finishing them.
Marathon 20, you were awesome. You made me realize that age is just a number as I ran my 3rd best time ever at age 41. Running is hard if you let your mind get in the way.
Portland bitches, I love you! It’s great knowing we will always be friends.
And Abbe… YOU DID IT! XXOO