Thursday, May 2, 2013

Eugene Marathon – 3:40

tracktownWhy Eugene?

Why did I run the Eugene Marathon?  First of all, my running friend, Felix asked me to. Secondly, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the race.  Third, the race website boasted one of my favorite four letter words:flat.  I wasn’t convinced before going since I knew that area of the country had plenty of mountains.

Plains, Trains, & Automobiles

Felix and I decided to travel on the cheap/economically so we flew Southwest Airlines. I like Southwest Airlines, but that darn Wright Amendment meant that we had to have at least one layover, but on the way there, we had 2 layovers.  It made for long travel days since we flew into Portland and had the 2 hour drive to Eugene.  The beautiful scenery along the highway made up for the drive time.

Expo and this guy named Eugene

20130428_060524-croppedThe Marathon Expo was about the right size.  The race merchandise wasn’t overly priced. I grabbed a long sleeve half-zip shirt at a reasonable price.  I’m glad that my wife doesn’t read my blog as this seems to be my personal confessional… I always seem to buy some running gadget that I probably won’t use.  This time it was the Cadillac of SPI Belts.  At least that’s what I was told.  It had the attachments for the race bib, the gel holders, a bigger pocket.  But after buying it and trying it on in the hotel room, I decided to go with wisdom… don’t try anything new for the race. I’m glad that I didn’t because I wear my SPI Belt high on top of my shorts underneath my shirt.  I could just see those gel packets chafing me like crazy.

photo 3Felix and I got to ham it up a bit at the photo booth.  I think Felix edged me out in this photo.

While sightseeing around Eugene, you can definitely tell this town loves running, thus the nickname of Tracktown USA.  There were so many bike lanes, running trails, Nike running billboards, and tributes to the legendary Steve Prefontaine.


It’s been a couple of weeks since the Boston Marathon tragedy and you could tell that security was increased more than normal. At marathons, it’s very normal to see a large number of first responders blocking traffic and aiding runners at the finish line.  However, there was definitely a heightened presence which included Homeland Security trucks and numerous military personnel. Before the race, an email was sent out explaining the increase in security. One of the biggest things was no lingering around the finish line… keep moving.

The Race Shirt

20130428_061700I don’t often dedicate races to anyone, but I really felt led to dedicate this race to my daughter, Briana. My bib number had one of her favorite numbers – 25 and I’m so proud of her tackling college life at Texas A&M.  So, I donned a Texas A&M shirt for the race.  I didn’t think I’d see too many Aggies up in the northwest, but there was one family of spectators that cheered for me every time that I saw them.  The tow times that I saw them on the course was so cool!  I had my adopted family right there.  After the race, a 2002 Aggie graduate came up to me and we talked for awhile.  I did see some ut fans and they gave me some funny gang signs.

Favorite Race Signs

home-2158I’m always looking out for funny race signs.  There were 2 that I haven’t seen before that I liked.  The first one was a play off of the “The End is Near” signs.  Early in the race… probably at mile 2, the sign read, “The End is Far”.  I loved it!  It was definitely the chuckle that I needed that early in the race. 

The second sign that I don’t recall seeing at a race before was “May the course be with you!”  Nice Star Wars reference.

The First Miles

The first few miles were really congested.  I’m used to clogged starts, but this one really seemed clogged.  In a way, I didn’t mind, because I really use this to slow my starting pace.  I’ve been ready to run this race for slow long that I just wanted to GO.

Felix and I were together at the start, but I got caught in the middle as he found a lane on the right.  He also jumped on the sidewalk to find relief from the crowd.  I stayed where I was as I knew that he was going to be going faster than I wanted and I wanted a slower start.

race-3-cropped-crowdAbove is a pic of me after I passed the 3:45 pace group. :)  I’ve tried to run with pace groups before, but I’m not totally crazy about them.  There are just too many people packed in together.  I like to run faster than my actual target time so that I can bank some time if I have to a nature stop.


I was worried that I might have picked up the pace too soon.  My biggest fear is that I’m going to hit that inevitable wall and want to walk at the end.  I decided to press on as I felt comfortable.  I wanted to run comfortable and not look at my watch frequently.

The first half of the race was pretty uneventful.  There was a great amount of crowd support.  There usually is more support for the beginning of a race since there are both half and full marathoners out there.  It was definitely nice once we were split off from the half marathoners.  I like when things thin out and we have some room to spread out.

I’ve just go to say… it’s so weird running in an area that you’re not familiar with. I’m not really looking for landmarks or anything familiar. It’s just from one mile marker to the next. Yes, it was a very scenic route, but different than a local race. Just had to get that off my chest. :)

Nature Stop

Dootie called and I had to stop to relieve myself.  I put the stop off for awhile, but knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold it for the remainder of the race.  So, at mile 15, I had my one and only pit stop – 2 minutes.  This is the first time that I only stopped once at a marathon.  I usually stop more when I see my family, friends, or when I try to make new friends.

After I came out of the bathroom, I noticed that the 3:45 group passed me up.  I got my groove back and caught up to them.  Soon after, I passed them.  There was definitely a huge bunch around that pace group.

The Second Half of the Race – Last 6 Miles

It’s true what they say… the marathon is broken up into two parts: the first 20 miles and then the last 6.2 miles.  Getting to the 20th mile was pretty physical, but the last 10K is where the mind games come into play.

The last 6 miles I had so many positive thoughts shoving out the negative ones.

  • logan_sherman_cowtown13I thought about my victory pose at the finish line. Yep, crazy thoughts!  I rarely ever pose or do something like this at the end, but with how well I was doing, I wanted to do something. A few came to mind, but I decided that I wanted to steal or borrow Logan Sherman's victory pose from his recent win at the Cowtown Ultra.
  • I thought about all the training, all the Insanity workouts, and training runs with Cairo.
  • I just kept breaking the remaining miles into something easier to consume... minutes. OK, 5 miles left that's a little over 40 minutes left at this pace. 4 - 32, 3 - 24, 2 - 16, and at mile 25, I had 10 minutes left to go. For some reason, minutes were easier on my head than the miles that were left.  However you go about it, you have to break it down to something easier to handle or you’ll get overwhelmed.
  • I only once tried to figure out how I was doing with my potential finishing time. At mile 21 I looked at the 3:45 wrist band and saw that I was about 3 minutes ahead of 3:45. When I hit the last couple of miles, I didn't try to do any math to figure out when I'd finish. I wanted to be surprised and I sure was.
  • I kept telling myself to push through the pain.  The pain would feel the same if I walked or ran.  As well, if I ran, I’d get done sooner.


There’s no stopping with less than a mile to go.  At this point, I’m really in awe of what I’m doing.  I’m actually doing it… killing my goal of hitting 3:45.

It was so awesome running into Hayward Field and seeing the full crowd in the grandstands. I had to wave at them acknowledging them and hoping to get them to cheer a little bit more.  It was exhilarating!  The other thing is that once I got on the track, I really wanted to run faster and pushed as hard as I could.

After crossing the finish line, I did my best Sherman Logan finisher’s pose and scream.  I’m interested to see what that photo is going to look like.  After I got my race medal and walked for a bit, I got a text from my wife that read, “Good job we r proud of u!! Cairo and I just saw u FINISH!!!”  It was so cool that Ursula and Cairo could see me finish all the way back in Texas.  The marathon website had a live video feed of the finish line.

I immediately called her and through tears of joy told her how I battled through everything.  I get pretty physically and emotionally drained at the end of these races.  This one was probably at the top of the list since I was battling myself to hit this loftier goal.  I just couldn’t believe that I not only hit my goal of 3:45, but I surpassed it by hitting the time of 3:40:33.  I knocked 18 minutes off of my previous PR of 3:58. CRAZY!

20130428_124057I finally met up with Felix.  He had it a bit rougher than I did as his right hamstring gave him troubles toward mile 20.  I never realized that I passed him.  I always thought he was in front.  I truly wish that he had a better race.  He was looking forward to this race so much more than I was.

We grabbed some liquid carbs after the race and chatted a bit about the race.  I’m really glad that Felix talked me into this race.  As far as the course, I was never really challenged on any of the hills.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been getting stronger or the lack of huge inclines. It’s probably a little bit of both.

What’s Next?

Next, is the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon in which I’ll be running for the joy of seeing my 17 year old son complete his first marathon.  This will be the shortest time between marathons that I’ve had – 3 weeks.

After Cleveland, my next scheduled marathon is the Bryan/College Station Marathon in December.  I’m also contemplating running in the Houston Marathon in January.

One thing for sure is that I feel more confident that I can qualify for Boston.  I’ve never really felt I’ve had a chance until the last few months.  It definitely feels more promising to think of knocking off 15 minutes vs 35 minutes.  3:25 to BQ still seems lofty, but not totally out of reach. 


Anonymous said...

Fantastic job, Mark! I know ultra training made you stronger -- that was easy to see watching you run Windhaven. You've still got great things ahead!

Michelle K said...

This is just about the most exciting thing ever! I am so proud of you! You have been a PR machine over the last year, it is certainly very inspiring for the rest of us to watch as we set our own goals. Congrats!