On April 28th, 2013 I jumped out of bed around 4:30 am. Surprisingly I got an incredible night’s worth of sleep and didn’t wake up once which is pretty rare for me when it comes to races. I realize how much of a blessing that actually is and it was much appreciated given that we had been traveling the last two days to get to Eugene.
I had my go to long run beverage/breakfast of black tea & honey and then spent the ten minutes babysitting my cream of buckwheat on the stove to which I added a peanut butter GU. I like adding peanut butter GU to my buckwheat because it gives it a great flavor and just a little extra “something” since my breakfast options before running are pretty limited.
Everything happened right on schedule that morning (again, how often does that happen?) and our group was out the door and driving to the start line. We opted to not use the shuttles and actually found parking on the University of Oregon campus pretty easily. It was the perfect distance away from the start for an easy warm up and conveniently right next to the pub we ended up choosing for post race celebrations.
We hit the bathrooms before the start at just the right time. I was a little concerned for some people towards the back because the lines looked pretty long. Warm up layers are stripped off, “good lucks” are said, and we head to our corrals.
I ended up starting in corral c. I jogged to the front of the corral and found the 3:35 pace group. I didn’t plan on running with the pace group but it was fun to chat a bit with Lora, Catie and @m1ssbrightside6 before the race start. The two corrals ahead of us start. Pretty soon we were walking up to the start line and the next thing I know we’re running.
Let me try to set the stage of how incredible of a day it was in Eugene… The weather was by every means race day weather perfection being overcast and about 45-50 degrees at the start. The streets were lined with the most amazing spectators and the beautiful lush scenery of Eugene was the icing on the cake! I don’t even feel like I can do the race day atmosphere justice with my description…
So we’re running. Okay, 26.2 here we go…
I immediately pull away from the 3:35 pace group. I honestly had no idea what my goal pace was but I decided to set a 7:45-7:55 range. I soon discovered that effort felt a little too comfortable and that it was most like okay to bump it up a bit.
I’m probably the worst person when it comes to writing recaps because I can’t really report much when it comes to the course. What I do remember is having a smile the size of Texas plastered to my face and really just genuinely enjoying the run.
Right around mile 3 I found myself running right behind Laura. Funny that I didn’t know her at the time but noticed her Nuun deco and immediately decided she MUST have a twitter and maybe a blog. Worth mentioning — THAT GAL LOOKED FIERCE! This was confirmed when Mason jumped in to run with her and I could overhear him saying something along the lines of how Sarah and Molly were looking great and dominating their races! I felt a rush of excitement that it seemed like so many twitter folks were off to a really great start!
That’s what happens when you don’t race with music… you just listen and take in what everyone else is saying.
I was successfully taking down water at every stop, feeling extremely strong, relaxed and in control. My legs felt fresh as daisies and I can recall thinking I felt like I could run for days. I took my first GU 45 minutes into the race.
At one point, I’m not sure if it was mile 6 or at the 10k mark, I crossed a timing mat and instantly thought of the people that might be tracking me. I pictured them losing their minds over the pace I was running and yelling at me to dial it back a bit. That thought quickly vanished when I realized that I had just run a 10k PR and I asked myself, “So what is it exactly that we’re doing today? Oh yeah, WE’RE ENJOYING THE RUN is what we’re doing!”
If you have never run a marathon… I’m sure you’ve noticed there is a lot of super cheesy internal dialogue that takes place.
My favorite part of the course was hands-down-no-contest mile 8. It was the steepest climb on the course climbing 70 feet in .4 miles. THAT HILL WAS SUCH A PARTY! I was totally stoked to be running it and the spectators were just fueling my fire with their cheers. I probably shouldn’t have surged up that hill like I did… BUT I DID and have absolutely no regrets about it. I opted to use the downhill that followed to recover a bit.
At mile 10 I was holding the same effort that felt so great at the start when I noticed a large group of people and some congestion on the course. I was a little confused and tried to get to the side to go around the large cluster. I then realized that I was passing the 3:25 pace group that started in the corral ahead of me.
AHHH! HOLY THUNDER CATS!!! IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!
When I realized that meant I was currently on pace for a 3:24 finish it was like the effing Fourth of July in my head! I’m not even kidding.. there were totally fireworks.
I can’t help but sit here and tear up a little bit as I write this because mile 8 and mile 10 will go down in my personal running history as one of the coolest moments, ever.
At this point I made the conscious decision to dial it back a tad. I knew that I was feeling great and I wanted it to stay that way.
This is when the crowd support of the Eugene Marathon is no more. Okay, I’m kidding. There are still spectators but in SIGNIFICANTLY less amounts. I don’t race with music, but when I do run Eugene Marathon again.. I will definitely be bringing music for that second half!
Cruising along, nature tripping from the beauty of Eugene, impressing myself with how well I’m able to take in water I take my next GU at 1 hour and 30 minutes into the race. Everything goes down nicely and I’m super impressed that I wasn’t having any GI issues… enough said. I purposely wasn’t taking in gatorade because my stomach does not handle it well. Instead, I had packed an endurolyte cap in the front pocket inside of my shorts to take at mile 13.
Note to self: write Mizuno a letter and please ask them to put a zip pocket on the Mustang short.
Mile 13 comes along and I find myself struggling to get the edurolyte out of my pocket. I started to become frustrated with it and decided, “Meh, screw it. I feel awesome, do I really need it?”
And that folks, is how I sabotaged my race. If you take ONE thing away from this recap .. TAKE YOUR DAMN ELECTROLYTES.
Running right along I’m starting to get a little bored and was really wishing I had brought music along. The crowd support temporarily picks up again around mile 16. At mile 17 my legs are still feeling insanely fresh and I know I needed to think about taking my next GU within the next mile or so. This is also when my memory start gets getting super fuzzy so bear with me.
I try and am unsuccessful at taking my next GU. I’m not hungry, I’m not thirsty and the thought of either is nauseating. I take down maybe a pinch of GU and that was literally all I could handle. I decide to hang on to it and maybe I’ll convince myself to take the rest later on. HA.
Towards the end of mile 19 is when I’m hit by a huge wall of nausea. My mouth was watering and I could taste a hint of salt. You know… that awful sensation you get right before you know you are going to puke and there is just no stopping it. This was also when I start feeling one of my toenails COME UP and I can feel blood in the toe of my sock. The thought of what was going on in my shoe intensified the nausea I was already experiencing.
I realize my pace is starting to drop and I can hear the 3:25 pace group coming up behind me. I didn’t care. I just wanted to hold on and hope what I was feeling would pass. As the 3:25 pace group passed me about halfway into mile 20 or maybe it was 21? I could hear them laughing and feel their positive energy as they passed. I was so happy yet so envious of how great they clearly felt.
I did my best to hold a strong effort. At this point I wasn’t paying attention to my garmin and I honestly don’t even remember what the course looked like or what was going on around me. It never came across my mind to stop running.
I didn’t want to stop.
I knew my decision to pass on the enduralyte was biting me in the ass and that the race I thought I was originally going to run was now over.
My race was over, but my battle was just starting.
I started repeating, “Let your heart be greater than the distance” over and over in my head. I couldn’t hear anything around me. All I could hear was that mantra over and over and over.
I ran through the water stop at mile 23 and didn’t take any water. After the water stop I started slowing to a jog. a trot. then I started tripping over my feet, seeing black spots and feel my body start to go limp. I veered off the bicycle path and into the grass and put my hands on me knees. A spectator asked if I was okay and I couldn’t answer her.
Well.. you know what happens next…
Well, what now?
You’re still standing. You didn’t collapse. You probably look like shit but you should start walking..
I stumble a bit at first, keep my head down and start walking… I’m walking as fast as I can.
My brain is then filled with thoughts trying to distract me.
“I know you didn’t think something like this would happen today.. but this is all just to prepare you for the 50 in July. You are going to finish this race. Your biggest goal was just to finish today. Your speed walking skills are really impressive… your ultra runner friends would be SO proud of your speed walking ability!”
I also pictured that if my family, friends, teammates and twitter/blog folks could see me they’d be screaming words of encouragement.. with expletives. I’m always encouraged by a good F-bomb.
I’m not quite sure how long I’m walking.. maybe a few minutes? I came up on an aide station serving gatorade and grab the first cup I can. Oh, it’s at this point I FINALLY throw down that gel I was STILL carrying in my hand. I guzzle down the gatorade and keep walking through the aide station. I said earlier that I don’t do well with gatorade… at this point I was obviously desperate.
I’m just walking past the last table when I see a guy in a pain cave all his own stretching out whatever he can. I almost walk past him when I turn around and let out the most miserable, “Will you please run with me?”
He looks at me, stops stretching and we start running. The word “running” is relative at this point, but we’re moving.
He starts to pull ahead a little bit and I catch up. I’m still not feeling so hot but having company is great at this point.
I find out his name is Norman, he’s from Seattle and this is his second marathon. We talk about running and how much we both can’t wait to be done. He asks me what my goal time is. I reply, “Well, I’d love to qualify for Boston today, but now more than anything I just want to finish. All I want is to finish.”
He then asked me what my BQ time is and what time I have on my watch.I tell him my watch is reading 3:07. It might be worth mentioning that in my mind I still think I’m somewhere around mile 20 and chipping away at a 6 hour marathon finish…
He replies with… “If you keep running… you’re going to make it!” I’m in disbelief that I still have time to qualify but decided to trust my new friend, Norman.
In an attempt to get my ass moving he then says, “My plan from here is to just walk/run it in.. I’ll see you at the finish!” With that, I say “thank you, see you soon!” and take off.
I notice that I’m starting to get really hot, my face is caked in salt and all I want is a large jar of pickle juice or a watermelon covered in sea salt.
The last few miles felt like an eternity, but I never stopped running. Up until mile 19 I had been nothing except a smile on my face the entire time. I’m 100% positive anything coming across my face at this point looked miserable. This was later confirmed by Kevin.
I heard my name just before mile 26, I’m not sure who it was… but I heard you and THANK YOU!
*oh hello misty eyes as I type this, again*
As I came upon the gates of Hayward Field a million emotions rushed over me with just as many thoughts to match.
I immediately thought of those who ran Boston Marathon.. those who lost their lives, didn’t get to finish running or had to run some more. I thought of all the spectators and volunteers that had come out to show their support in Eugene.
I thought about how I left CIM in December feeling defeated, but today I pressed on and triumphed when a not-too-long ago Courtney would have crumbled.
My feet hit the track and the next thing I remember is seeing a young bright eyed gal handing me my medal. I had tears in my eyes and told her, “thank you so much.”
I ended up finishing in 3:33:27. Which gave me a 10+ minute personal record and a qualifying time for Boston.
After finishing, I immediately took my shoes off (to check out the damage) and laid on the field just outside the finishing area. I made sure to look for Norman and was happy I got to congratulate, thank and give him the world’s biggest hug!
I also got to meet a ton of great runners that ran fantastic races that day. PR’s, BQ’S, super strong training runs.. you name it! What they say about Eugene aka Track Town USA is true. It really is a magical place. A place where you can find your limits and push them even further.
Do I have any “what if…” thoughts? You bet I do. Bottom line is I made a decision that ended up being a mistake and did the best that I could with the repercussions.
The Eugene Marathon is an absolutely incredible race that I hope everyone gets to experience at some time or another. I will definitely be going back to run this one again!