Slow…….but worth every extra second.

Portland Marathon 2007 finish line

I did it…..Again !

Portland-Marathon-2007-finish-line 1
(Two of a kind)

Portland marathon mile 6
(Mile 6)

Portland Marathon photos
(mile 13)

St Johns Bridge mile 18
(St Johns Bridge mile 18)
You probably wouldn’t know it by looking at my slow finish results, but today, I’m a very …very happy and lucky person . I know this wasn’t my fastest marathon, nor was it my slowest , but it was by far… my Favorite marathon !

Having been in the hospital just two weeks earlier, and judging by how rocky my recovery had been , I decided that I would not push myself too hard, and that I would deliberately keep my speed down and my racewalking sprints to a minimum.

To summarize briefly…. I’m proud of my performance in this race and that of my friends. For the first time ever, I think I did more things right, then I did wrong . That doesn’t mean I didn’t do any stupid things (more about that later), but I started the race with a positive attitude, finished strong, and I had a whole lot of fun in between.
And get this… I didn’t have a single leg cramp–not even a twitch during the entire 7 hour walk.. ..Nadda, Ziltch..Not One! and no knee pain either. Weird huh?

Finally, and what always amazes me, is the kindness of the people of Portland.
That’s what keeps bringing me back.

Here’s how the weekend went down:

Friday, I flew up to Portland where I hooked up with my friends and Walkingfasterclub cohorts, Brandon and Rachel .

Rachel, Brandon and Steve  Portland Oregon

(Friends Rachel and Brandon)

We set up camp at a cool little motel just a mile from the starting line, hung out,relaxed and ate like pigs.
Portland Marathon 2007
(part of the fun is picking out your racing clothes)
Saturday morning , We headed over to the Expo and picked up packets and all the free stuff we could find. Later that morning we attended a scheduled lecture by Olympic racewalker Philip Dunn , and walking fitness expert Judy Heller. Portland marathon 2007 Expo Philp dunn
(Racewalk Olympian Philip Dunn and my walking buddy Brandon)
Philip Dunn and Judu Heller
(Philip and Judy)
It was basically a pep talk/inspirational speech for first time marathoners and what to expect afterwards. Phillip actually did the 26 mile Nordic walk on Sunday– his first time for that sport.
Philip has also qualified for the 2008 Olympic trials. I sure wish there was a way to help fund our Olympic athletes training. ( that’s another blog post)
Anyways, at the end of the presentation , I talked Philip into racewalking across the room for us. …in his jeans no less…( you can’t take me anywhere)


I was so pumped up after meeting Phillip , there was no doubt in my mind….I was going to finish this race!Marathon morning, we left the motel at 6am to allow for the one mile walk to the starting line. We only got a few hundred yards away when a young couple driving by stopped, and asked us if we’d like a ride down to the starting area.(the first example of Portland kindness ) of course we accepted , and in less than 10 minutes , we were in our starting positions near the back of the back.

The Start, The race was delayed for a few minutes due to road construction, but the gun finally went off , and with an inhaler in each hand , I headed out into the wild blue yonder.
Despite worrying all weekend that it was going to rain during the marathon, it never materialized , and you couldn’t of asked for better temperatures…56 degrees at the start.

Miles 1-3, The first few miles were, as they always are….easy , but a little nerve racking. I mean that literally, because for some reason I tend to get butterflies in my stomach during those first few miles of any race, so I’m always scoping out the nearby terrain for an emergency pit stop if needed. Thank goodness the churning in my gut subsided and I made it to mile 3 without any problems.

Mile 3.5 , I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was fellow blogger and friend Mike Mc Bride who come all the way from Colorado do this race. He had started at the very back of the pack and was already passing me up. He was pulling a specially designed cart which holds all of his oxygen tanks– an astonishing feat when you consider that he has severe emphysema . Not only does he have to walk fast , but he has to pull a large cart behind him. What a treat it was to meet this special person.

I would find out later, that his oxygen system failed and that he was forced to quit the race at mile 13. That sucks…… I’m sure he was disappointed. Michael Mc Bride Portland marathon

(Mike hauling his oxygen cart UP a hill)

Mile 3.75, Sure enough… There was Anita, standing on the side of the road in her bright yellow hazard vest. At first I thought she was one of the racewalking officials. But why would they be rooting me on and taking my pictures and asking me if there was anything I needed.? lol I’m not that much of a celebrity.
Anyways, this would be the first of many encounters with this one- women life-saving, mobile cheer leader!Mile 5-6 , A piece a cake . I was finally starting to feel good and sure that I had made the right decision to do this race. I even did a little racewalking to make up for the lost time that I had wasted in the porta potty lines earlier. As I was racewalking I ran into yet another Walkingfaster member, Jackie. Looking strong, turns out she beat all of us with a finish time of 6 hours. (You ROCK Jackie !)

Mile 7 , OK…..remember when I mentioned something about doing stupid things? Well, this would definitely qualify.

I was starting to get a little short breath and wheezy , so I go to use one of my inhalers and guess what? They’re no longer in my hands ! I lost not just one…but BOTH of my albuterol inhalers.! They must have slipped out of my hands somewhere between mile 7 and mile 8 . I think it happened while was reaching for water at one of the aid stations. I had been carrying that stupid rain poncho with one of the inhalers wrapped in side,it must of fell out.
Inhalers are my life blood during a long walk race. During a typical marathon I’ll use my albuterol at least 12 times, maybe more. They’re more important to me than water.
Without the medicine, I can’t exert myself. Simply put …..no inhalers , means no race!
At this point I started panicking, so I turned around and back tracked a full mile searching in vane for these two lost inhalers. I think they were swept up with the paper cups on the ground. I was so pissed off at myself.
How could I be so careless? I had extra inhalers in my room, but I’m the only one who had the keys.
By this time I had all but resigned myself to the fact the race was over for me.

Then it dawned on me….I could use an over the counter inhaler like Primatine mist. But how would I get it on the course. Then the light bulb went off again…….. Anita is out along the course somewhere…..with a moped.
I immediately called her an told her the situation. Without hesitation, she told me she’d get on her scooter and find a drug store ( remember we’re talking early Sunday morning) and would call me back in 20 minutes. At that point my hopes were up again, so I decided to resume my walking , but at a much slower pace so that my breathing wouldn’t get worse.
15 minutes later, she calls me and tells me that she found a drug store that has primatene mist, but that it’s locked behind the pharmacy counter until the pharmacy opens at 10 am. She told me she would wait for them to open and get the medicine to me at mile 12 . (That was as close as she could get to me because the course was closed to traffic after mile 12.) That would save the race for me, but was going to put me behind another 15 -20minutes . Hey, I’m not going to PR anyway, so what’s another 15 minutes. Well, wouldn’t you know it… Anita worked her magical powers by convincing the people at the store to have pity on this poor pathetic little asthmatic racewalker. They agreed to open up the counter early for her and by the time I got to mile 12, Anita AND Brandon were both waiting for me with the primatene mist.
Anita saved the day for me and I was back on track with a total loss of only 10 minutes! This is the second act of kindness I received this day from the people of Portland.

Miles 12-20, absolutely awesome ! Even the climb up to the dreaded St Johns bridge was relatively easy .
For the next 4 and a half hours my friend Brandon and I would , walk , racewalk ,talk and basically acted like fools. We were feeding off each others defiance of going against doctors wishes and those of other people in our lives who think we’re crazy and careless for doing what we do. Brandon with his bad knees and me with my bad lungs–rebels till the end. At the same time though, we made it a point to slow down and cheer on all the wonderful musical acts that were performing for us along the way, and to voice our appreciation to each and every volunteer that cheered us on along the way.
The primatine mist was also working well as a substitute, and I had only minimal breathing difficulties throughout the rest of the course.
Anita would continue to pop out of the woodwork at various points along the way, offering up water and refreshments, not only to us , but other slow poke walker as well.

Miles 20-26 , Those last few miles were tough, but I still felt incredibly strong. Though we had made up a lot of time that I had lost earlier in the race, by mile 20 it was pretty evident that a sub seven finish wasn’t in the cards, so we decided to make it 7.5 hours instead and cross the finish line together.
Well,that’s exactly what we did. We finished those last 6 miles within 2 minutes of our new goal time and crossed the finish line at the same moment at 7:32:55. We came in 255th to last place. Hey…better than last years 50th to last.

Had it not been for my carelessness with my inhalers, or the fact that I was critically ill two weeks earlier, we would both finished in the 6 hour range.
But you know what? I wouldn’t trade a 5 hour finish, for the good time I had on that course.

Recap , Out of all the races I’Portland marathon finisher certificate

More pictures to follow…..

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15 thoughts on “Slow…….but worth every extra second.

  1. Stephen,
    Great job with the Portland Marathon! I love that race, and have completed it 6 times. I haven’t done it since 2000…reading your great report makes me want to go back.

    Happy trails,
    Bad Ben

  2. Congrats on your finish and still feeling healthy afterwards! Nice! 🙂 I’m also glad to hear that my neighbors – the Portlanders – treat the marathoners right. That’s so great.

  3. Big surprise but I’m sitting here in Starbucks reading your race report with tears running down my face. I’m so happy, thrilled, proud and in awe of both you and Brandon, Steve! I’ve never met two knuckleheads I feel more fondly for and following you along the route was a blast for me. Now the question I’ve been dying to ask…..green, yellow or red????

  4. Wow, great story and great accomplishment! Especially considering you were just recently in the hospital. You continue to amaze…..keep up the good work!

  5. Nice finish. Glad to see that you were able to complete the marathon and that you had a great time while doing it. Hope you recover well!

  6. OMG Stephen, you are so awesome, you did it again, illness and all, and Anita is a godsend, she be blessed, whereever she is, the gods were on your side, what more can one ask for?

  7. ooo such drama and then the redemption in the end, loved the report. Thank goodness for Anita and way to hold on. PR on the course too right, chances are you will PR again next year.

  8. upright and smiling Stephen — awesome job — one to be proud of for sure — i will carry your story with me as an inspiration when I leave for Japan — you will help push me through — YOU ARE WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT –THANKYOU
    Allan

  9. Wow, I am so proud of you!!!!! Losing your inhaler sounds like a nightmare, thanks Anita!!!! Portland looks like a great place. Take care and congrats

  10. Wooohooooooo! I was wondering how things went, and getting worried when you hadn’t posted. Congrats on the finish.

    I would have been in a huge if I lost my inhaler mid race. I’m so glad you had a friend how could come to your rescue and get you the primatine mist.

    Brittney

  11. Stephen:
    The race results for Suwa Ko will be in Japanese — I will post as soon as I can from Japan –probably on the 30th
    Cheers
    Allan
    PS — tons of pics for sure

  12. Stephen,

    Congrats on another marathon finish. It was nice to meet you in PDX and see your lively spirit in person. This was also my first time competing in the Portland Marathon and it truly lived up to its “Friendliest Marathon” reputation. I’m always proud to say that I grew up in Portland. It’s a great place.

    Best wishes on your future endeavors, great and small!

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