Have you ever said something along the lines of, “If I say I want to do this next time, remind me that I said I would never do it again.” Those were the thoughts that were going through my head the first few miles of the Pacific Crest Marathon last Saturday.
I ran this same marathon in 2012. You can read that race report here. I even re-read my race report before we left on vacation and recalled that it was a tough race mentally because it is two loops of a half-marathon course. You basically run right past the finish line and back out for another 13.1 miles. Also, because this race is in Oregon, specifically Sunriver, Oregon, one has no idea what the weather will be like. In 2012 when I ran the full marathon, it was 40 degrees at the start and it hailed. In 2010 when I ran the half, it was warm but not miserable.
This year the weather would be a force to be reckoned with and the nemesis in every runner’s side. I knew this when we left California as the temps were slowly rising towards 100 degrees. The weather in Sunriver was predicted to be in the high 90s or low 100s.
We stopped in Ashland, Oregon on Thursday. I have always wanted to visit Ashland as I hear it is an ultra runner’s dream. We stopped at Hal Koerner’s store, Rogue Valley Runners and did a little shopping and photo op’ing.
We also stopped and had dinner at Standing Stone Brewing Company, a recommendation from Hal himself (thank you social media) and I saw Jenn Shelton sitting at the bar having a beer.
We spent the night in Medford (interesting) and then drove to Sunriver on Friday morning. In the past, I felt that if I didn’t have enough time to acclimate to the elevation, then it was better to get there and just run the race right away. Sunriver is at 4200 ft above sea level. That’s a significant difference compared to my usual 768 ft.
We were vacationing with Be-Well-Run and her family again. In years past, we all participated in some kind of event since Sunriver hosts the Pacific Crest Sports Weekend Festival. This year however, only Vans and I had signed up for events (the marathon for myself and the 10k for Vans). Be-Well-Run signed up for the 10k at packet pick-up which was a nice surprise.
Walking around the expo I wasn’t really nervous. I kept telling Vans that I was more disappointed because I really wanted to do well and try and break my previous time at this race, but based on the way I was feeling … I just knew it wasn’t in the cards. I was tired, my legs were toast and I had a bunch of internal things going on that proved to be just really bad timing on my body’s part. Finishing became my goal. Or perhaps, this is just a “training run” for my pacing duties at Tahoe Rim Trail in two weeks? That is what I kept telling myself anyway.
Race morning I woke up and got myself dressed. It was warm already. Luckily, in preparation I made sure to bring a bandana with me. This bandana has saved me at many an ultra so I figured I would carry it with me (more on this later).
I had a Picky Bar breakfast and then sat with my legs up a wall trying to move the circulation around a bit. My legs just felt stiff and tired and sluggish. Riding in a car for hours on end will do that I suppose. I tried to just relax. I tried foam rolling too. My right hamstring has been bugging me for a while. I can’t quite pinpoint what triggers it or what caused it, but I know when I think about it, it tightens up.
Soon it was time to head to the start. The thing about this marathon is that even though it is a Boston qualifying race, there is never that many people running it (in fact, I just looked, there were 73 people who ran). I think I finally understand why now.
The race started on time and we were off and running. It goes up hill at first and we were to expect aid-stations and porta potties every mile (not necessarily at each mile marker). I decided not to carry any water with me based on there being water so frequently.
Within the first few miles I just knew my legs were not working. They didn’t seem connected to my body at all. My pace was hovering around 8:50 which was surprising to me since I felt like I was a slug on the sidewalk.
After I passed mile 2 I saw some friendly faces. I put on my best smile and waved.
I just assumed that I would slowly begin to bounce back to normal and eventually get into a groove. Somewhere around mile 6 or 7 though, my paced started slowing and the heat started coming on strong. My 8:50s started hovering around 9 and then 9:10 … and then 9:15.
The last time I ran this, I only allowed myself walking breaks on the second loop and only when I was going through an aid-station. This year, the walking started early. “Oh, is that an aid-station I see way up there? Okay, that means I can walk now.”
That’s kinda how it went for a while. Part of the course goes past the Sunriver Airport where there is absolutely positively zero shade cover. Not that there was a ton on the other parts of the course but at least there we had some cloud cover … the airport seemed to make the clouds disappear.
The aid-stations were great. They had water and I was enjoying the mental break of knowing they were coming every mile. There was a bit of a mind game for a while as they were not at the mile markers but in-between.
Somewhere around mile 9 or so I started thinking, “There is no way in hell I am going to finish this race. Forget this. If the family is at the half-way point, I am stopping. Who cares if my first ever DNF is on a road marathon!? This is insane!”
Mile 10: “You can’t quit. You can’t! You’ve run 8 other marathons before this. You’ve run ultras for goodness sake! How can you possibly quit!?”
Mile 11: “Yup, you can quit. This is the pits. Can you feel this heat? It has to be 100 degrees outside!” (it was 97).
Mile 12: “Ugh, more rolling hills? What the hell? Why? This is ridiculous. Look! Those people are walking. You can walk too. Almost to the half way point. Almost to the point where you are going to quit!”
Mile 13: “Why the heck do they have to add a .1 to a freaking half marathon?! Why can’t it just stop at 13?! Okay, there is the finish shoot, where is my family?”
Course marshal: “Half marathoner’s go right, marathoner’s go left for your second loop!”
Me (in my head): “But, but …. I don’t WANT to do a second loop! Where are they? Where is my family? They have to be here. Sure they didn’t say they would be here but they have to know I am dying right?”
Off I go … on my second loop. They had no water at the finish area. The last water station was at mile 12. The next one wouldn’t be until almost mile 15 or 16 … in 97 degrees and in my completely fragile emotional state, that seemed like 115 miles to me. I think I started hallucinating.
I had been running with a salt tab in my hand since mile 13. All I wanted was a cup of water so that I could take my salt tab. I saw my family ahead of me. I started walking and blabbering about “no water, where is the water?” and “if you were at the half way point, I’d be done. I can’t do this. This is so hard.” I stole my 7 year old’s water bottle and I took my salt tab.
Be-Well-Run rode her bike up ahead to the aid-station and I think informed them that I was coming and desperately needed water. A nice volunteer ran up to me, “Are you Pam?” Me: “Yes, I am.” Nice volunteer: “Okay, you can do this, you can make this. Here is some water. Is this your first marathon?” Me (oh dear lord, it looks like I am dying doing my first marathon): “Um, no, more like my 9th.”
Vans told me how hot it was (gee, I hadn’t noticed) and informed me that I was moving pretty slow (ya think?). He said, “See you at the finish?” and I think I said, “Sure, but we’re looking at a 5 hour marathon here. I see a lot of walking in my future.” He assured me that I only had about 6 miles to go. I don’t know if he was trying to mess with my math challenged dehydrated brain or what, but I kind of believed him until I got a little further and realized I had like 10 more miles, not 6. Thanks honey.
I am not sure when, but they had run out of ICE on the course so all the water we had to drink was WARM. Ugh. Around mile 10 however, they had buckets of cold water (guess that is where all the ice went) and I started using my bandana. I’d soak it in a nice ice-cold bucket and then wipe my face and wrap it around my neck. My saving grace. That bandana makes the world a better place.
The rest of the course was a ghost town. There were one or two guys who I had been playing leap-frog with. I had to use a porta potty twice so they’d get ahead of me but I’d eventually catch up and pass. At about mile 18, I started feeling way better.
When I reached the airport (mile 20) there was a kid manning the aid-station. I asked where his water bucket went and he said it was gone but that he had ice. ICE? What?! I had him fill my bandana (sorry other runners). I carried that bandana full of ice the rest of the race cooling my neck and face.
I wasn’t running 100% of the time, but I was running more than I had before. I had passed those two guys for good and a girl (who didn’t enjoy that). When I saw the 21 mile marker, I knew I could finish. Walk run walk run. Run run run run. Walk. Run.
When I saw the finish shoot, I tried so hard to gather up enough energy to just keep running. I saw and heard my family cheering my name. That gave me a nice boost.
When I crossed that finish line I was filled with a bunch of emotions. There was a lot of “Oh thank goodness you are done,” but there was also the, “Holy crap, you did it!? You stuck it out!”
I was stoked that I had finished, shocked at my terrible time (4 hrs 40 minutes) and desperately searching for one thing ….
Post race massage by this guy … he was blown away by my right hamstring. I was too to be honest. It didn’t feel great but after he dug his elbow in it a few million times, it felt a lot better.
Upon completion of your race (any races in Sunriver), you get a free Deschutes Beer. Of course, being gluten free, I cannot drink beer but Vans was not about to let this opportunity pass so he rushed me over to the Bier Garten.
We hung around the race for a little bit but the kids were toast. My long marathon had taken up most of the day and everyone wanted to get moving on our vacation. So we left.
Overall, I wasn’t too sore from the race. My quads were pretty tight the following day but I didn’t stretch nor did I foam roll or anything (I know, I know, bad!).
In the end, I am proud of myself for sticking it out and not quitting. On the other hand, this is fueling me towards some serious marathon training for CIM in December. I am due. I want to get back to my sub 4 hour marathon time.
I say it all the time, but for me, road running is harder than trail running. They are both very different in so many ways. I am faster on the road but the endurance for running continuously isn’t there. I’ve been so mentally trained to be conservative on the trail because usually, you are out there for the long haul. You have fuel. You have aid-stations that are like a giant smorgasbord of everything you can imagine. When I passed my first aid-station in Sunriver my heart sank a little bit. Water?! Just water??
I know that no matter what, I can manage the distance but I am getting tired of just “managing” … I want to do better. So, we shall see. I have some pacing duties to attend to in a few weeks and then, who knows, maybe I will start migrating to the pavement again. CIM training IS just right around the corner.
Stay tuned for another post. I have a million photos and a few more stories to share about our vacation that involve more running but since this post is already almost as long as my last marathon time (har har), I figure I should end it here.