Start Time: 7:01am
Weather: 47 degrees, heavy overcast, no wind. PERFECT.
Marathons are a funny thing.
I woke up this morning after getting a pretty decent night's sleep, a bit nervous...for the first time. I've never gone into a marathon with the expectation of winning. On paper, I was the favorite, but as everyone on this blog knows, a lot can happen over 26.2 miles. So I was a bit nervous.
My reason for running this marathon was to win. Period. I picked this one because it is flat and fast and because the course record was a respectable 2:26 so I wasn't picking a backwoods marathon that could be won in anything under three hours.
My second goal was to break the course record. My third goal was to go sub 2:24. Why? Well, I have this problem. My St. George PR is 2:18:57. My non-St. George PR is 2:29. That disparity has bothered me a lot and has made me wonder how fast I really am. So even more than the victory, I was anxious to get this dual-PR monkey off my back.
Mission accomplished on all fronts.
I finished in 2:22:47, winning the race by nearly 20 minutes and shattering the course record, which earned me a $100. (I put $95 of that into my gas tank in Corvallis on the way home). More importantly, I ran a very solid time, narrowed the huge gap between SGM and my "other" PR and did so doing it completely alone wire to wire. Going into the race, I would have said that winning would bring the greatest joy from this race. I would have been wrong. Don't get me wrong. Winning my first marathon is huge and a longstanding goal that has now been accomplished. But running a near-OTQ qualifying (old standard) race all by myself was an enormous boost in confidence that may carry me much farther than the victory itself.
Here are my splits:
I've thought a but about what made this race so much better than my previous PR in Eugene in 2007 especially since Eugene was not any more challenging than Newport and because I had a group of guys to run with the whole race there.
Two early observations: (1) Hydration. For those who have read any of my previous marathon race reports, you know that getting enough fluid in my body has been an enormous challenge for me at the marathon distance. I finally figured it out. The line between too little water and too much is very, very fine. I promised myself this race that if I went down in flames it was going to be because I drank too much fluid not because I drank too little. Today, I was able to manage that very tricky balance perfectly. I had a few stomach cramps and aches along the way, but nothing that slowed me down. Interestingly, the only fluid I took was water with NUUN tablets in it and just plain water. None of that HEED crap. I also took one GU at 17 which was perfect. So no sport drinks, only one GU (100 calories) seemed to do the tricks. I estimate I had 60 or so ounces of fluid during the race. That is a PR by more than double. Sad I know. (2) Strength exercises. I felt fantastic during the whole race. When I crossed the finish line, I didn't really feel all that tired. I kept waiting for the proverbial wall but it never happened. From Mile 18 on I just took it two miles at a time and it worked well. The strength exercises really conditioned me in a way that I have never experienced before. I suspect my post-race recovery will be easier as well. I have more work to do here but my legs have never felt better during a race.
The race course is stunning. It's beautiful and except for a few rollers in miles 1-5 and again on the 26th mile, it's as flat as can be. St. George is a beautiful course in it's own right, but this is classic Northwest beauty.
I should also mention that the race logistics were second to none. Given the new time standards and the elimination of St. George and other aided courses, Newport is a very good candidate for those wanting to try to qualify for the Trials in 2011. All it would take is a pack of 5-10 runners to push each other along.
Miles 1-4 run through a state park with a cool lighthouse and then winds through the neighborhoods of Newport before dropping down to sea level and running through the fishing district. At 4.5, there is a steep uphill that lasts for about .15-.2 miles. I took it pretty conservatively. At the crest you begin a gentle downhill back to sea level to Mile 5. From there all the way to Mile 25, it is as flat as can be.
At the halfway point I felt great crossing in 1:11:15, 45 seconds faster than planned. The turnaround at 15.2 was a welcome sight. I have come to love out and back courses. The runners are always so awesome to cheer those heading back to the finish. It's also nice to know what you have ahead of you.
At Mile 17, all was well but in the back of my mind I was worried about Mile 20 which has been the usual point of my demise. To help me get around that, at Mile 19 I did the "just get yourself to Mile 21 and you will be fine." It worked. I don't even remember Mile 20. At 21 I was well under course record pace and mentally pushed myself to work hard to Mile 23. At 25, I was still running at a solid pace and feeling great. Mile 26 was a gentle uphill and slowed me down a bit. Mile 26 would have greatly benefited from having someone to run with. Breaking 2:23 was the only remaining time goal to shoot for so I wasn't exactly killing myself up the hill. Right at the 26-mile mark you have a steep downhill which my legs did not appreciate.
What a day. It's not very often you run 26 miles and accomplish even the loftiest of goals you set for yourself.