Thursday, April 19, 2018

Vernonia Marathon Race Report

Alicia and I decided to look for a local(ish) marathon to run as her final long run in her Smith Rock 50K block, one that would also double as a solid run for me in my Millersylvania 50K block. I had a phenomenal time at Hagg Lake 50K, so when we saw that the Vernonia Marathon was directed by the same club that put on Hagg, we decided to go for it!
This Marathon is a point to point course starting in Vernonia, OR and ending in Banks, OR. It starts off by taking a loop around Vernonia lake and then proceeds on a bike/pedestrian path all the way to Banks, ending at the middle school. The start of the race was well organized with plenty of buses to shuttle runners, a warm building to stay out of the elements, clean bathrooms, and drinks, including hot coffee to keep us warm while we were waiting to start.
My wife and I wished each other luck, exchanged some good luck kisses, and stepped to the line. This wasn't a very big event (172 starters, I believe) so I took the lead from the start and felt confident I could maintain it, even with very little marathon-specific training.

PC: Lester Tsai

 I followed the pace bike around the lake; this was my absolute favorite part of the race! Upon returning from the lollipop-type loop, I was able to cheer-on and high-five the majority of the marathon field, who all looked stoked! It brought me a ton of joy ahead of what I knew would be a good amount of suffering. I saw Alicia on my way back as well, she shouted " What's wrong?" I was confused and yelled back "I'm winning?!" I later found out she thought I was headed the wrong direction.

PC: Lest Tsai

The pace bike left the course after mile 5, which I thought was strange for a regional championship race, but makes sense as the rest of the course is a straight shot on a bike path. This threw me off a little bit though. Once I realized I'd be alone for quite some time, it took some real work to get out of my head and stay focused on the task at hand. But the course was gorgeous! It felt quiet remote in some areas and featured what looked like old growth forest, thick moss, farm animals (the biggest pig I've ever seen) and dense foliage.
PC: Lest Tsai

PC: Lester Tsai

PC: Kelly Barten

There was a slight uphill (roughly 300ft of elevation gain) from mile 9 to 13, but living in Ashland, we get that much gain on the 1 mile run from downtown back to our house, so it felt like no biggie. After the halfway point, there was a gentle, and gradual, 400ft downhill section until mile 21. I was able to keep a decent pace during these miles and felt fairly good because of the light down-grade. I caught up with some of the half marathoners around mile 14 who cheered me on and offered words of encouragement. This definitely helped fire me back up when I was feeling tired. Thanks to all of you who were hootin' and hollerin'! It made a huge, positive impact on my day.

PC: Lester Tsai

I didn't wear a GPS, but I'm aware of my pace and I'm 100% sure the mile markers were placed incorrectly in some areas. My splits were jumping around from 5:20 to 6:50 with each passing mile marker. I know myself well enough to know #1 What 5:20 pace feels like (it's unsustainable for 26.2 for me) #2 What 6:50 feels like (my "easy" road pace) and #3 How to keep a fairly steady rhythm. Some variance is expected, but most days, my pace doesn't vary by 90 sec/mi on the roads, even if I have to stop and take a piss! The course is USATF certified, so there's no doubt in my mind that the distance was spot on, but the mile markers sure as hell were not. I tried not to let this bother me too much and simply maintained an effort I felt I could sustain for about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

PC: Lester Tsai

At mile 21 the course flattened out and it began to dump buckets of rain. Flat running sounds nice in theory, but after you've been running downhill for nearly 7 miles, flat almost feels like uphill! I maintained my effort the best I could and just kept trucking along. All of the volunteers and other runners were super supportive and encouraging as I plodded forward, which helped so much! I probably sounded crazy to some of them as I just kept saying out loud: "Focus. Focus. Focus." By this time I was soaked, my glide had worn off and my nipples were bleeding. That hurt! I tried to take off my shirt, but that only lasted for about a mile before I got too cold and decided to put it back on and deal with it.
I lost some time in the final two miles. My splits were somewhere around 6:40, but I didn't mind. I figured I'd get close enough to 02:35 to feel satisfied for the day. As I rounded the corner and stepped onto the middle school track for the final lap, I funneled in with some of the half marathoners, took a lap, and crossed the finish line in 02:37:03 which is a road marathon PB for me!

PC: Kelly Barten

I was pretty pumped about nailing a PB on a training run, but no one acknowledged that I finished. I didn't care about being acknowledged as a winner, only as a finisher and participant, and that didn't happen. It's so strange that I got missed too, because they got a photo of me finishing! I probably felt more disappointed by this than I should I have, but I couldn't help it. I headed to the showers to warm up.
I walked back down to wait for my wife, and as I was waiting for her to come through, a man with a mustache came up and asked me if I could come get something out of his car. I was pretty shelled, you know, from just running 26.2 near my ability, but no shit, this guy had me walk up to his car and carry a flat of Gatorade back to the finish! Come to find out this was the RD. Don't get me wrong, I like to help - I do volunteer, I had just never experienced something like that as a race participant at any of the 60 races I've run. There's more to that story and the interactions that followed, but I'll keep it to myself.

Thank you to all of the lovely volunteers out there who spent their whole day in the pouring rain to help us runners meet our goals! YOU ALL ARE AMAZING! And thank you to ORRC for putting on such a beautiful race and for providing stocked aid stations, warm post race food, and FREE race photos! You all are awesome.

Shout out to my beautiful wife! She was/is feeling fit, but her ITB flared up around mile 10. If I were there, I might have encouraged her to drop out; to keep her eye on Smith Rock, but I wasn't there and she's tough as nails, so she gutted it out. It was a long tough day for her, but she still managed to eek out a 1 minute PR. Congrats, beautiful! I'm proud of you.


PC: Lest Tsai

PC: Lest Tsai



PC: Kelly Barten

I am so thankful for my life (and my wife!), for this body, and to have the gift of movement! I feel blessed and excited about what the future holds as well. I've focused mainly on trail and ultra running, so it took tears to get from 03:09 to 02:37 in the marathon. The daily grind is rarely exciting and I've had a ton of set backs, but I'm ready to give the next 5 to 10 years of running my all. When I'm finished, I aim to to be satisfied with my efforts.

Gear used:

Rabbit McSleeve
Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts
Swiftwick Crew Socks
Adidas Boston Boost 6
3 GU Energy Roctane Gels
Stopwatch

No comments:

Post a Comment