Sunday, October 04, 2009

Race Report: Portland Marathon

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:48:55, 11:02/mile, R3/W1
Quick Summary:  On a perfect day for running, I had a wonderful race for 18 miles.  Then my right knee stiffened for still-undetermined reasons and the pace slowed.  Other than that, it was a wonderful race packaged into a fabulous weekend to be with my son and a terrific time to be with many running friends from the PNW.
The Gory Details:
Pre-race:  This whole trip fit into an opportunity to spend a weekend with our son Nathan who works in Portland.  So I flew out on Friday, spent all of Saturday with him. 
I worked out a chance to have an extended conversation, at a Starbucks of course, with Eric and Michelle on Saturday, meeting at the Expo.  What a treat that was, our conversation ranging far beyond running. 
Sunday morning, I was able to meet up with Sarah and her family, which was also a treat.  Hubby Marc ran the race while their son did a kid's two miler.  Very cool. 
The Race:
The race itself had multiple facets, more than a single blog post can capture.  Suffice it to say, this was a bona fide "Big City Marathon", the full opposite of the Heart of America race Darrell and I ran just four weeks ago. 
The gun went off on time at 7:00am and I was a bit surprised at the time it took to get enough space to run comfortably. My target time was 4:40, with the intention to do a 3/1 throughout. The combination of the big crowd and width of the streets seemed to combine to make quite a crush of people.  For me, it was well into the 5th mile before I could find much of a rhythm.  I hit the 5 mile mark 40 seconds off my projection.  I was not too concerned. 
We then moved into a long out and back section through an industrial area.  There I got into much more of a flow yet at mile 10 I was 1:30 behind schedule.  I wasn't quite sure how that was working but it was what it was. 
We moved through a residential area and the onto a long flat road towards the major climb in this course.  I hit the half-marathon mat at 2:16:18, which was OK but not great.  Yet, by mile 16, I was only 20 seconds off pace.  The reason for that was I factored in two 12 minute miles for the big climb up to and over the St. John's Bridge.  On the down slope of the bridge, I was feeling good and looking forward to the rest of the race.
Somewhere around mile 18, I felt an odd twinge in my right knee.  This was really strange...I have felt nothing in my right knee for over a year.  My left knee, a few things but not the right.  What was this about?  It got painful in certain settings, particularly any down slope.  It really preoccupied my mind for a mile or so.  What was I going to do??
I kept focusing on hydration and form and tried to observe.  What I came up with was; the 3/1 still seemed to work; running on the flat was easier than running a hill; I had to back off the pace when I ran; and I was frustrated because EVERYTHING else was working so wonderfully...the knee was slowing me down  
But by mile 20,  I came to grips with reality; the 4:40 was gone.  So, could I not just enjoy the rest of the race and do the best I could?  Yeah, that became the new plan.
At mile 20, I was a full 4 minutes behind plan.  Going down a long hill to mile 23 was awful...the knee was very balky on that slope and I was reduced to a 1/1 run/walk when I should have been gaining time all the way down.  But, the knee just would not take it any other way. 
At the bottom of the hill, the knee and I made a truce and I did the 3/1, albeit slower, the rest of the way.  I enjoyed all the scenes; I was even "interviewed" by the announcer at the Red Lizard Pacing stop at mile 24 as I ran.  At mile 25, I decided to see if I could run the rest of the way...which I did.  I really enjoyed the build up of the crowds to the finish line; I was smiling all the way, just like a silly teenager.  I hit the finish line just less that 10 minutes under my target. 
Post Race:  Lots of stories here...that will wait for another day.  Suffice it to say, I felt wonderful, despite the kneww...I grabbed about four hand fulls of grapes, got some other food, talked to folks, walked around, absorbing the wonderful atmosphere.  In the crush of people, Nathan and still managed to find each other.  We made the long walk to his car, which felt fine, I showered, we found a dandy place to have lunch and discussed nuance of how a young employee speaks difficult topics to his boss.  Cool that not all chatting has to be about running. 
So much of what I experienced in the race happened with people.  I carried a camera with me for the race and got many of these moments in images.  With my schedule, it will be late in the week before I can post all the pictures but some of the stores are both amazing and cool.  But, gotta have the pix to tell these stories!  
I am disappointed in how the race went, I can't gloss over that.  It was the perfect situation for a very good time and this surprising knee issue just got in the way.  Yet, the old saying "Every marathon has its lesson" is true here and I'll reflect and perhaps write on those lessons. 
Next Steps:  I need to ice and rest this knee.  I've also decided not to run the Monumental Marathon in Indy on November 7 as previously planned.  It just doesn't make sense.  I will plan on running the HUFF 50K trail race on December 19....that could be a lot of fun. 
Thanks for listening.  Jenny, Sarah, Eric, was awesome to see you all.  Thanks for welcoming me a bit into your worlds.


Wes said...

The best laid plans of mice and men :-) Well done Joe. Some things are just out of our control. I hope that knee gets better quick like!

Sarah said...

It was a lot of fun meeting you before the race. I'm glad we had a chance to talk, even if just for a little bit!

That steep downhill after the St John's bridge just before mile 18 has done me in before. I'm wondering if that's where you started having problems. I think it was 2006 that a knee/lower ITB problem struck after that hill and took me out for a couple of weeks. Anyway, I hope your knee is better soon!

Backofpack said...

Joe, sitting at coffee with you was one of the highlights of our weekend! It was nice to have a chance to talk. Bummed about your knee, but love the positive attitude you pulled out of the race anyway. I'll try to get my report up in a day or two.

David said...

You'd think a downhill could be your friend, but NO, not for Joe.

Sorry about that. Recover well and carefully.

Darrell said...

Even with the balky knee, you did what you've learned to do so well in these things and that's make the best of the conditions that present themselves. Hey, is there some kind of life lesson there? ;-) Bummer about your fall triple, but it makes good sense.

Unknown said...

You adapted quickly to a bad situation with the knee and still got way under 5 plus you enjoyed the race and the week end. All in all a great success I would say. Congratulations!
I think you are right to rest the knee for some time and go easy.

Unknown said...

woah...wait...did someone say trail 50k? SWEET!