Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Portland Marathon part two----sorry for the delay.

Picking up where we left off last installment…We had gotten to downtown Portland and parked.  We had found our way to the correct coral for ME…the others were in different corals.  I decided that it was time to drop off the bag I brought and said, “I’m gonna go check the bag.”  I walked over to the bag check…this is the same pretty much everywhere, garbage bag, sharpie, and a label.  You dump your stuff into the garbage bag, write your bib number on the label, slap that on the bag, hand to volunteer.  There were more than a few confused by this process and the poor guys working the table were explaining it over and over…

The race started, and since I was in Coral E, it took about 15 minutes before we were shuffled into the starting area.  On the way, I was clearly feeling good, I harassed the two corporals that were checking bibs just before the turn onto start line.  A quick countdown, and we were off like a turd of hertles, or is that a herd of turtles?  At any rate, we were off at a nice slow easy pace.  My running partners stuck with my pace for a bit, but the one running the half looked back and said, I’ll see you later, and took off into the sea of humanity in front of us.  D and I, hung in at my starting pace, as she had asked me to keep us at an easy slow pace to start.

I got the iPod started, but I couldn’t hear it over the bands that had their amps turned up to 11.  Some were really good, others….well, I’ll give them credit for being up and set up at 7 am on a Sunday.  We made a few turns and then climbed up a nice slow incline.  We passed the first aid station, and I noticed that there were some serious lines at the porta-potties.  When we turned the corner to start the decent back into the city for the boring out-and-back portion, D wanted to take off, we were at mile 3 and she wanted to go. I reined her back in, and told her to keep a lid on it for a little longer…I would let her take off before too long.   By the time we got to mile 5 she needed to stop at the porta-potties, line or not.  I offered to stop, and wait with her, but she said she would catch up.   Off I went on my own for the first time in the race.  Down into the first part of the industrial area; which makes up a big, boring chunk of the race.  According to the map it was somewhere between miles 7 and 8 that D caught up with me, and we proceeded to look for our faster compatriot who should have been on the way back towards the half finish.  We saw him, I gave a high-five, and we headed back up towards the turn-around.

On the return to the split off for the marathon and the Pikermi , we caught up with a gal from Texas that was there by herself to run the marathon.  The three of us chatted for a little bit, and I noticed that D and Texas were keeping the same pace, and would get ahead of me, then pull back.  After a couple of times of this, I asked her if she was running with anyone.  She says, “No.”  I say, “You are now.  Off you two go.  I’ll be good on my own.”   With that, they stepped out at a few seconds per mile faster pace.  I knew that D was going to finish about 25 minutes ahead of me, so I wasn’t too worried about her heading out on her own.
I got to the split, and the woman was yelling, “Half Marathon to the left, Full to the right!”  I holler back, “Where to the 50K runners go?”  She shook her head and just pointed to the right.  I was in good spirits, and my virtual “pit crew” was keeping tabs via texts.  I had two people keeping tabs on me, checking my splits, and I was letting them know when I had taken on fuel.  Which by this time, was two shots of Powerbar Gel.  I was not going to bonk or wall out on this marathon.  We wound our way into the other side of the industrial area, heading for the dreaded St. Johns Bridge.  It is dreaded, because the climb up the road to get to it is tough on cars, let alone a couple of thousand nutters on foot.

With the bridge getting closer, and my third fuel gel downed, I meet up with a gal that is running with a CamelBak.  We start talking, cuz that’s what I do.  We share some brief history; she asked if anyone was running with me.  I said I couldn’t get my friends to run with me, she said she couldn’t either.  So we talked a little more, and I decided, since this was her first marathon, and I remember how lonely I was during mine, that I would run with her.  Turns out to be the coolest thing I think I could have done.  She was going back into the Army, and we started singing cadences.  Now some of you know that not all cadences are PG…some of them are pushing NC-17.  She knew a couple of those.  We got some looks.

Well, we got to the base of the climb to the bridge, so I had to give her my, how to do hill climbs info.  Short steps, up on your toes, head up, don’t worry about how far up we have to go.  She pushed on like the trooper she is, and we were passing LOTS of people walking.  2/3s up the hill, and she says she needs to pee.  I can see there are two porta-potties at the top next to a medical aid station, so I ask if she wants me to stay.  She says, “You are helping me get through this, if you would stay that would be great.”  So, of course, I stayed.  We had agreed that our next fuel up was at the top of the bridge, so when she finished with the latrine I waved her over, and off we went at over the bridge.  At the top we down some fuel, and we head into North Portland.

As we got to the mile 17.5 mile split, I was telling my running mate, about my experience in April, where it was at about this point that I got cold.  Which I didn’t realize at the time to mean that I was out of fuel.  She says, “I got cold at the top of the bridge.”  I said, that was not good, but as the fates would have it, the very next aid station, was handing out large chunks of bagel.  They gave us each three, which I promptly gave to her.  I then ran to the tent and found more bagel chunks and some cheese.  I holler to her, they have cheese, and she says she can’t eat cheese.  OK, I grab a handful for myself, cus I love cheese, and quickly grab her about 4 more chunks of blueberry bagel.  We decide to let her walk while she eats, and I tell her that we are now on a mission to find her anything that resembles food.  If they offer anything that she can eat, she is to take it and eat.  We walk for about 5 minutes while she refuels.  Then back into the race.

And being the good troop that she is, at every stop, or any group of spectators that had anything to eat, she took something; pretzels, orange wedges, gummy bears, whatever.  We also bumped two fuels ahead of the 3 mile schedule we had been sticking to.  By mile 21 she was feeling much better, and was looking better too.  Yay me, for knowing how to deal with an imminent bonk.  We saw some my neighbors at mile 21 or there abouts, and waved.  They texted saying that we looked good.  I was telling my new friend that in just a few more miles, ‘’someone was going to hang a shiny metal around your neck, drape a space blanket over your shoulders and tell you congratulations, you are a marathoner.  And if they don’t I will.”

The last few miles, were spent passing people, walking through aid stations, and keeping my running partner focused on just not quitting.  She had made it this far, she wasn’t going to end up walking in like all these people we were passing.  My pit crew was keeping my spirits up, and keeping me going, and I was smiling and bopping along, buoyed by the fact that we were going to run this whole thing in.  At mile 24 there was a funk band laying it down, and I couldn’t help myself but dance a little going by.  The guys in the band started laughing and pointing.  I waved and made the turn onto the last bridge of the run.

On the downhill side of the bridge, the poor gal says, “My hips hurt, my feet hurt, I’m tired, and I want to stop.” 

I replied, “Your feet, hips and back hurt?” 


“Then you are doin’ it right.”  This got a little bit of a smile, and we were making the turn off of the bridge to some very lazy cheerleaders.  We told them we were going to call the coach of their school team if they didn’t start cheering…that got two of them to start.  Heh, high schoolers don’t care much.  She had told me nearly 15 miles ago that when she is doing PT with her Guard unit, during the runs with the 18 year old boys, she will occasionally be in front of them on the runs, and she will taunt them, “You gonna let a thirty year-old woman beat you?” Which, of course, gets the boys to start running hard, and she says she can’t catch them.  I hang onto that thought for a little bit more.

We get to mile 26, and we are just a couple of blocks from the finish.  I step it up, and tell her to keep up. As I am pulling away, I look over my shoulder, and yell at her, “You gonna let this 43 year old man beat you?” I turn and don’t check to see if she took the bait…I wasn’t gonna get chicked.  I got to the finish line just a step or two ahead of her, turn and say, “You are a marathoner.”  With a big hug, she says “You are too.”  We walk through the finisher’s area; get some stuff to eat, and drink, she gets her picture taken, and then we head to find our families.  I get one more hug from her before she disappears into the crowd.

Post race was find my clothes, change in a porta-potty, getting compression socks on in that little space was a trick, but hey, with my space blanket covering everything inside, and being able to stand on my slippers, I managed to get it handled.  Gathered everyone in our group together, and then headed for beers and burgers.  In that order.  I had the first beer gone before the waitress had managed to bring everyone their first rounds.  It was a good race.  Slower than the first one, but hey, I ran the whole way, and I helped someone finish their first.  I have no doubts that that young lady will run more marathons, and will always remember the weird guy that helped her through the first one.

In two months I’ll tell you about my first trail run, it was a Pikermi at that.


  1. That was the best report I've read in ages!! You are such a great person. I love that you helped her out - and hey, I actually learned something reading this report! I remember a race (although now I can't remember which), but I remember feeling strange that I was suddenly really cold and feeling totally weak. Now I get it!

    We were in the same corral. Bummer I didn't see you. I was in panic mode though. I couldn't get a signal on my Garmin for the longest time.

    Gosh, really, I love this report. Congratulations! Great race, and hero of the day award goes to you!!

  2. I tried to reply to your comment, but you are a no-reply blogger person .... you haven't "missed" anything, because I never actually posted what I think you are trying to figure out. If you are confused, then you are probably right on what you are confused about. I made some changes in my life - for the better! :-)

    And I can't figure out -- what is ODF??? I think "OutDoor Food" - which is what we used in Animal Kingdom.

  3. Congratulations on your run. Glad you finally got around to sharing your story.

  4. I loved this report, Natty.
    Very kind of you to help her out.
    I can imagine the cadences were fun to do. I need the words to a few. The only one i know starts "The coffee in the army, it tastes like iodine..."

    Sounds like an awesome way to finish out another adventure. Glad to see you came back!