I had planned on leaving my house on Friday at 7 am for the 8 hour drive up to Oregon, but as is the norm for me, I was too wired to sleep and ended up leaving at 3 o’clock in the morning. I made it to Eugene by mid afternoon, checked into my hotel and made it over to the Expo just before they closed. I collected my bib, goodie bag and shirt. Then I got something to eat, went back to my hotel and passed out from exhaustion.Saturday morning I woke up short of breath just to discover that my new portable nebulizer wasn’t working properly. Douglas had warned to me to take both machines with me, but of course I didn’t listen. No biggie I thought, I’ll just increase the dosage on my inhalers ,which seemed to work for a while.
. Later that morning I went back over to the Expo to check out the exhibitors more thoroughly. I bought a cool Nike running cap and a few other souvenirs. They were also passing coupons for a free Steve Perfontaine t-shirt which I picked up at a local running store later that afternoon. After I was done at the Expo , I walked around downtown Eugene to check things out and to try to get my bearings. There’s actually a lot to see and do ,especially if you’re into shopping. They had some kind of Flea market thing happening, but it was too jammed with people, so I skipped it.
I decided to eat early that day, so at around noon I picked up my pre-race dinner consisting of 2 pieces of KFC , some Thai noodles I picked up at a small Thai cafe and a small banana ice cream cup from Cold Stone Creamery. I headed back to my hotel where I stuffed myself, put my racing attire together, overdosed myself on inhalers and finally fell asleep watching Sherman Capote’s “In cold blood”.
Race morning I woke at 4 am , still a little short of breath , but felt better than I thought I would. I got dressed and made it to the busing area by 5:45 am . As I predicted, the parking situation was total chaos. They had obviously under estimated the number parking spaces and buses they needed, but they rapidly got things back under control and the buses started departing. When we got off the shuttle on the other side of the river, we had to walk another six blocks to the staging area which was situated across the street from the famous “Hayward Field”
From 6:30 until 6:59, I stood in the toilet line. I’ve never seen so many porta-potties or people waiting to use them ….. in my life!.
I was totally blown away by the sheer beauty of the scenery that surrounded the entire marathon course. It was like walking through a 26 mile long park! Consisting mostly of city streets and bike paths, the route took you from quaint little neighborhoods to posh river front estates to several pristine parks. The views from the many foot bridges that span the Willamette river, were breathtaking !
To top it off, you couldn’t ask for clearer skies, which apparently, is rare in Eugene.
At 7 am sharp! the gun went off, and as 5500 people charged forward through downtown, I worked my way toward the back (where I’m most comfortable), and gradually developed a nice racewalking rhythm.
My main objective , was just to get through this race without exacerbating my already tight lungs or to induce any muscle cramps . My strategy was simple: maintain a moderate but steady pace ….and Finish.
The first half:
One thing I noticed right off the bat, was that there were very few walkers in this race, and most of those appeared to be doing some sort of power walking thingy. As far as I know, I was the only one who was really “racewalking.
The first 10 miles were relatively easy. My legs were cramp free and though my lungs were getting increasingly tighter , the inhalers seemed to be doing their job and I was breathing without too much discomfort. There were even times during that first half that I would experiment by cranking up my pace for a hundred yards or so to make up time, but each time I did that, I became more short of breath and requiring more hits off the inhaler. I decided instead, that if I wanted to finish the race, that I would have to put this “faster is better” mentality out of my head. Another thing that slowed me down , were all of the porta- potty stops I had to make— a total of eight ! plus one visit behind a tree… (the tree thing is a first for me —- I guess that makes me real marathoner now!)
I was so afraid of dehydrating and cramping up, that I probably over did it with the fluids. I estimate that I lost at least 20 minutes just in pee stops.
The mid section ( miles 13-19):
By this time I had been walking for almost 4 hours. I don’t know if was because this part of the course had more twists and turns, but it sure seemed like the mile marker signs took longer and longer to reach.
It was also at this point that the half marathon participants split off to a different course, leaving only a handful of walker and runners in front of me . At one point , I think it was between mile 16 and 17 , there was absolutely no one in front of me for at least a full mile.This made pacing myself a little tricky. I didn’t know if I was going too fast or too slow.
By mile 18, my knees , calves and for the first time ever, my hip flexors…. were really starting to ache , but thankfully no cramping yet.
It was also getting harder to breath and inhalers weren’t helping as much as they did earlier on.
One thing that kept going through my head was…”When will the next water station and/or porta potties appear? — I hope they didn’t forget one” Sounds weird huh? but to me they were like a little oasis out in middle of the hostel desert, and you knew you would feel refreshed and recharged after stopping at one of them.
The dreaded six ( 20-26):
I know Ive been at this for a long time now, because there are more and more civilians popping up on the course. My body is starting to really hurt now and to make things worse, the sun is out in full force. Not only am I in major pain, but now I’m starting to overheat, I’m getting nauseated, and there’s no aid station sight!
Miles 22 to 25 were of course, the absolute worse.
I think this is the part of the game that really tests your abilities to cope more than anything else. It was at this point that I became aware that a sub 7 finish was possible if I didn’t stop , the only problems was .. my thighs,calves and now my hip muscles were starting to cramp really bad and my lower back was killing me.There was no way I’d be able to finish this race AT ALL, if I developed full blown cramps. I needed to stretch ,and I needed to do it about every 200 yards to stay in the game, but taking too long would blow my chances of finishing under 7 hours. So what I did was focus on an object out in front of me in the distance,( like a tree or a fence post), and then when I came upon it, I’d stop momentarily ( less than 5 seconds) and stretch my calf and back muscles out. I swear…I must have done this at least 20 times during the last two miles. It seemed to work until I reached mile 24.
At that point , just the opposite was happening…when I’d stop to stretch I could feel the rest of my body starting to quiver . Now, I had no choice …I had to keep moving or keel over in a massive body cramp. I was the hardest thing I’ve ever put myself through, but there was no way I was going cross the finish line after the 7 hour mark. My mind was made up I dealt with the pain and my labored breathing by grimacing , moaning or whatever it took to distract myself .
Mile 25– I could now see the finish area..I had exactly 15 minutes to go 1.2 miles. People who had already finished the marathon, wearing their medals around their necks , were starting to walk back towards me. As they passed me,they would smile and give me the thumbs up signal. All of a sudden my breathing was easing up and the pain in my lower body had turned into almost a kind of numbness.
Finally I could see the finish line clock , I had 2 and a half minutes to go 300 yards, so I broke out into a jog and just went for it…….I finished !!!
………. and then I proceeded to collapse from near suffocation.
I didn’t actually collapse , it’s just that I couldn’t catch my breath. After they put the medal around my neck and cut the timing chip off, somebody walked me over to the medical tent and sat me down on one of those military cots. I was too short of breath to speak, so I showed them my medical bracelet and they took it from there. They were great!
They checked my vitals and gave me a breathing treatment ( the first I’d had in two days) My oxygen saturation, which is normally 95% , was only 85% . They slapped some O2 on me and I quickly “pinked” up. After the breathing treatment , I felt much better and about a half hour later they agreed to release me.
From there I grabbed one of the free subways sandwiches they had at the foot table , limped back to my car, drove back to my hotel, packed up my stuff and left Eugene.I knew I was getting sick and I had just walked a marathon, the last place I wanted to be, was 500 miles away from home. I decided it was better to risk driving home tired than to stay in Eugene another day. On the drive home my mind was whirling. I had so many emotions going on. I was still high from the race, I was smiling, I was depressed , I was totally exhausted, I was in pain, I was having major breathing problems………….. but I DID IT!
Two days later , I’m not feeling so good. I have a chest cold which is exacerbating my asthma , my body feels like it was run over by tractor and I’m still experiencing the post race blues. I think the combination of lack of sleep, over exertion and the emotional drain, are all contributing factors. But , I’ll tell you this…. now that I have done a sub 7 hour race, I believe a sub 6 is very do-able. All I need to do to is eliminate some of the down time.
In some respects I think this walk was actually harder for me than Portland, because I knew I had to do better.
I don’t know when, or if, I’ll do another marathon, but I signed up for Portland just in case.