Well, I feel like I've finally recovered from the Portland Marathon this year. At least recovered enough mentally to write this post. It was a great learning experience and I will not forget the training advice and limits that this race imparted to me.
First off, it taught me the hard lesson of doing too much, for too long, and racing two races of large caliber very close together. I started out the day feeling pretty good. It was raining, which was expected from the forecast, but that was not enough to get my spirits down. I mentally had my mind very much around this race as it was going to be 2 hours and 30 minutes less time and 5 miles less than my trail ultra 3 weeks earlier. What I didn't know, at least fully, was that I hadn't let my body recover like I should have from the 50k. I was so pumped at having finished the ultra, that I jumped right back into running the week after logging 6 runs and 28.23 miles with 2,300 ft of elevation gain right after I had done my first ultramarathon...not smart. I didn't feel the wheels starting to come off until a week and a half before the PDX Marathon when I just started feeling very tired and wasn't recovering from what were normally, harder, but not extremely hard runs for me (8-10 mile runs). What really tipped me off, was when I went for a 12 mile trail run with 1,600 ft gain and 1,900 ft decent the Sunday a week before the marathon as my last long run. I felt great on the run and ran it at a very quick pace for this type of run 9:12/mile. However, as soon as the run ended, the outside of my left knee started to tighten up in addition to my left hip feeling sore. For any longtime runners, you know this is the unfortunate sign of an IT Band issue. It wasn't better the next day, so I took a few days off and did a few runs in the 2-3 mile range without issues and hoped for the best at the marathon. Well, at about mile 8 or 9 the knee started to slowly deteriorate. I just told myself to keep things easy and smooth and was hoping it would maybe go away, but it turned out that I just ended up dealing with the extreme discomfort of an irritated IT band for about 17 of the 26.2 miles of the race...not the way I wanted to experience my first marathon. All in all, it was the most painful running experience I've ever endured and this is not how it should have been. If I would have taken more time to adequately recover from my 50k (for which I felt great for at least 90% of the 31 miles, quite unlike my marathon), I'm sure my body would have been more than up for the challenge of the marathon and the experience would have been much more enjoyable. However, the lesson learned is invaluable so I don't view the race as a failure.
It rained the entire race and my feet were soaked from mile 1 forward. I opted to run in the Vibram Five Finger KSOs (see the picture above) instead of my Luna Sandals because of all the water and that I hadn't quite gotten my tying system for the sandals down pat before the race. The VFF worked great, other than the fact that I hadn't really run a long run in them for over 2 months, so that combined with the water resulted in some pretty bad blister issues on the inside/arch area of my right foot.
I came in at 3:38:18. I am very happy with this time in lieu of the difficulties described above. I was shooting for a sub 3:30, but it was not meant to be. I had no issues with my endurance or energy, but my legs were not recovered to handle the mileage at the pace I needed.
The picture at the top holds some special meaning for me as it will from this point forward mark a moment of pain and discomfort that I will remember, not for the pain, but for the errors in training, expectations, and thoughts of running fast, yet not giving rest my body needed. I also will enjoy the fact that my friend and brother-in-law Barry Spooner was pictured to the left of me in this shot. It was at mile 21.3 and we were both feeling rather poor at that point. Barry had started out at a much quicker pace than myself and I did not catch up to him until around mile 20.5. We ran together, mostly in silence for about a mile and a half before if became apparent that Barry was hurting a little more than I was and I continued on around a 8:30 ish/mile pace to complete the race. Too his credit, Barry pushed on to finish 7 minutes later than myself coming in at 3:45:18.
My thoughts surrounding this race continue to develop, but right now I am focused on resting and recovering completely and then honestly re-evaluating where I am at physically and mentally and deciding whether I'm up for a race I have sign up for on December 4th in the Marin Headlands outside San Fransisco, CA. It is The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championship race. I'm not sure about 50 miles yet (or the expected 10,000+ ft of elevation gain), but there is only one way to find out. This is a pretty big race as far as ultras go and some of the ultrarunners that I really admire are going to be racing in the 200 runner field that I'm signed up in. I'll be sure to keep you updated on my decision regarding the race and how my training goes leading up to it. It will be a quiet next week or two though, as I plan to take it very easy and let my body fully recover before hitting a short mini training cycle of about 3-4 weeks of good mountain running with a few long runs in the 20's. I'll keep you posted.