Freak Yeah! I'll write more after swimming with the kids, going to the beach, and eating some food. SO HAPPY!!! Lifetime goal ACHIEVED!!!
I'll try and keep this brief, but you all know how it is...
Background: Running is great because it's so personal. We can set goals that are pertinent to us individually and then pursue them with as much fervor as possible, regardless of what every other runner is doing. Before I ran my first marathon, my goal was to simply run well. I ran a 2:44 (2006) and immediately set my sights on a sub-6:00 average marathon which I was able to do in my third attempt (2:35:47) in 2008. Naturally, my next goal was a sub 2:30. Maybe I was naive, but I figured I had just knocked off 9 minutes off my PR and the next 6 minutes would be just as 'easy.' Nine marathons later, I can say it wasn't easy. I came close a few times; 2:31:29 @ Portland in 2009, 2:30:54 @ Logan in 2011 and Newport last year in 2:32:56. No offense to anyone reading this, but I wanted to accomplish this on a flat course. The 2:30:54 at Logan was close to my goal, but honestly I never considered it a PR because of the downhill. To each their own, but for me it just doesn't "count." Last year I came to Newport because of the mostly flat, sea-level course, but also because it allowed my wife and kids to share in the experience with me. My wife is amazing and has sacrificed so much for this hobby, so when I do well, WE DO WELL. Unfortunately, last year I got a bit antsy in my training and decided to run the Provo marathon 4 weeks prior to Newport which come to find out, isn't all that conducive to running a PR. Haha.
Anyway, on to this year; it's pretty comical because the buildup was exactly the same as last year. We tied it into a work trip to Coos Bay on Thursday, then on to Newport on Friday. Stayed at the same hotel, ate at the same restaurant, same morning race day prep, etc. My wife asked me as we drove to Newport on Friday what my expectations were. I had no idea and told her "I haven't even thought about it." And it's the truth. I've been running okay mileage, but noticeably less this year than the past two. I'd love to run more, but at this stage in life, I'm just happy with what I can do. Work is as busy as ever, we had our third child last August, for the past year I've been serving as the Young Men's President, I started an MBA program in January, etc. Life is busy and running has (rightfully) been pushed to the backburner at times. Each week feels like a victory if I can just make it through and still have my head above water. I the running/mileage has been decent that week, that's just icing on the cake. Anyway, I wanted to do well today but just didn't give it much thought before toeing the line.
Perfect race day conditions; temps were in the high 40's, semi-sunny, and little to no wind. The gun went off and soon found myself in 6-7th place for the first mile. I didn't recognize anyone in front of me but was content to ease into the race. Mile 1 in 5:50. Moved up slightly to 3-4th during mile 2 (5:50). I didn't feel great, but didn't feel bad either. Picked up the pace slightly to catch up to the first 3 guys in mile 3 (5:42) before dropping downtown and running along the boardwalk for mile 4 (5:36). I was running 20-30 meters behind the leader throughout mile 4, but he was moving pretty good and I couldn't get any closer. Still didn't know who he was, but he looked relaxed and pretty legit at this point, so I knew I would have to gain on him at some point. Mile 5 was my slowest of the day (5:52) because of the steep uphill. It isn't all that long, but it is steep enough to slow your pace considerably. It was mile 6 (5:36) that I finally pulled up to the lead runner. He was from Bend and coached by the legendary Max King. That right there let me know I had a legit competitor, which I was ecstatic about. Running solo last year wasn't all that fun and I knew that he and I together could put down a solid time. Mile 7 (5:45) and mile 8 (5:48) were casual as we talked throughout, making the time go quickly. Took my first sip of water at mile 7 and Gu at mile 8. Mile 9 (5:45) and mile 10 (5:51) were more of the same.
Right at mile 10, Jordan said he needed to stop for a porta-potty. For the last few miles I felt the need to use the bathroom as well, but my right leg was feeling very tight and I was afraid of it stiffening up if I were to stop even for just a few seconds. I told him to be quick and that he'd catch up soon enough. Honestly, I thought he would as he had been running great thus far, but unfortunately, that was the last I saw of him. Mile 11 (5:42), 12 (5:37), 13 (5:45), and 14 (5:42) passed quickly and I saw my family for the first time and got my first sip of Gatorade. I ran mile 15 in 5:48 before turning around and heading back into town. The next four miles are my favorite of the race as the other runners are approaching my from the front and they are all so supportive in wishing me good luck and handing out high-fives. The running community is so supportive of each other; there's truly nothing else like it. Mile 16 (5:41), 17 (5:38) and 18 (5:44) and I saw my family once again. Took my second sip of Gatorade, which also turned out to be my last drink of the day. Now that I look back, I'm shocked I didn't hit the wall. I had a sip of water at 7, Gu at 8, and Gatorade at 13 and 18. That's it. I just didn't feel like I needed it and anything more felt like I would have an upset stomach.
I still needed to use the bathroom, but my right leg was still tight and so I continued to run without stopping. Other than the slight strain in my leg, I felt fantastic. Mile 19 (5:45), mile 20 (5:41) and mile 21 (5:43) hummed right along. My wife offered a drink around mile 21-22 but I didn't take it. The plan was to see her at one more spot (mile 23) but I told her to go to the finish. I wasn't sure, because there was plenty of time to blow up like all the other times in the past, but I was feeling good and for the first time, thought that today might be the day for a sub-2:30. Honestly, my Garmin had been wacky all morning long and after mile 4 or 5, I stopped looking at it. The watch was jumping from 5:30 to 6:30 pace every time I looked at it and so I had no idea where I was at. However, the mile splits were going off basically right on at each mile marker, so I figured it was somewhat accurate. Regardless, I was gathering splits but not trusting them one bit and I had my watch set up to tell me miles, pace, and heart rate, so I didn't know my overall time.
Mile 22 in 5:35. Solid. Still feeling good. Mile 23 in 5:36. I'm getting goose bumps as I switch my watch over to overall time. I begin to do the math and realize it's going to be close. I can't blow up and need to make up some ground in case the gradual uphill throughout mile 26 slowed me down. Mile 24 in 5:36. Another solid mile. I couldn't believe how good I felt. Every other marathon the wheels have come off long before this point. Even at Top of Utah when I ran a high 2:30, I had to walk for a bit at mile 24 because of a stomach cramp. Today was such a joy because my body felt phenomenal. One more great mile for good measure when I hit a 5:31 for mile 25. Those might have been my best four miles of the race, which I'm proud of because I was alone, tired, and I've given up mentally here in the past.
The gradual uphill that lasts the entire mile began at the start of mile 26. I tried to get ticked and run with some anger because I knew that although I should be well under 2:30, I didn't want to slip and mess up at this point. I managed a 5:40 for mile 26 (I'll take it!) and then ran 1:00 for the final .2. I started clapping and cheering as I approached the line and celebrated with my wife and kids after crossing the finish line. I was euphoric. I've been on cloud nine all day and relishing the goal achievement that took place today.
Post-race: I was able to get my splits for each mile, but not my total time. I'm excited to get home Sunday night and look at the numbers a little deeper. It looks like it was a negative split, but not sure by how much, although I could be wrong. The awards ceremony was fun like last year. I got another unique trophy and was able to chat with some friends I'd made last year. This race is quickly turning into one of my favorites.
I've been viewing this race as my last race before taking some time off from running for a while. I'll still run of course, but not with the same "run-10-miles-per-day-and-20-on-the-weekend-no-matter-what" attitude. I'd still like to run a sub 1:10 in the half, so I'll try and accomplish that at some point.
Some of the stats from the race:
First 10 miles in 57:40 (5:46 average)
First 13 miles in 1:14:46 (5:46 average)
Second 10 miles in 57:10 (5:43 average)
Second 13 miles in 1:13:47 (5:41 average)
Final 10 miles in 56:33 (5:40 average)
First 20 miles in 1:54:50 (5:45 average)
Final 6.2 miles in 34:42 (5:36 average)
Roughly a 1 minute negative split based upon the first 13 and second 13 miles.
An improvement by 3:21 from last year. A PR by 1:19.