After 16 weeks of training, race day has finally arrived! I started the 45th Portland Marathon in darkness with fresh legs, injury free and ready to go on race morning. In this final post, I’ll recap the race, my run and the important recovery in the days after the race. If you need to catch up, be sure to read my previous blog posts detailing my preparation here.
At 7 am, after the National Anthem was sung by all starters, a mix of nervous and anxious energy in the darkness, the race was finally started in cool (low 50s) and wet conditions. The course initially winds through downtown Portland, OR, then takes runners through the city’s industrial areas, over the St. John’s bridge and the Willamette River, back through numerous Northeast Portland neighborhoods, past many cheering supporters, local musicians and finishes in downtown.
Unlike the 2015 marathon which enjoyed low 70s and sunny skies, this year the weather conditions started fair and actually got worse during the course of the race as temperatures dropped slightly with increasing rain and wind. The good news was that none of this stopped 4,539 runners from completing their 26.2 mile journey. Also, the Portland Marathon Half was completed at the same time as the marathon by 2,359 participants.
Matthew Palilla of Bend, OR won the race 2:36:25. That works out to be 5:58/mile pace. Although not close to elite, it’s a good time. The winning woman, Kate Landau, of Tacoma, WA was not far behind the leading men. She finished in a very respectable 2:38:45.
My goal, as I trained all Summer, was to finish near or below 3:00. Unfortunately, as discussed in previous posts, I didn’t complete the last few tempo and long runs scheduled for mid-September. This impacted my ability to finish strong, however, I still completed the race in 3:11:34. Which was good for 4th place in the Male 50-54 age group. The 2018 Boston Qualifier for my age is 3:30, so for the 5th time in as many years, I’ve finished a marathon in well under the Boston standard. I attribute my success to my unique training formula that helps me remain injury free.
My strategy was to start at a comfortable (7:15/mile) pace. After about 3 miles, I felt strong and the pace actually felt slow, so I decided to slightly increase the pace through the 10k. As I approached the 10 mile point, I refueled with my UCAN (starchy energy drink), water and a gel. This gave me a boost as I comfortably went through the half marathon in 1:32. Although there’s not many spectators on the back part of the course, there’s always a few local musicians or DJs entertaining and motivating runners. On this rainy day, they were all under canopies.
The rain and wind picked up during miles 13 – 17. The last portion of this segment includes a nearly 250 ft climb up the St Johns Bridge. This bridge is a “killer” for most runners. As you can see in the photo above, I’m very happy to have pushed through the bridge and be able to head downhill. Although my pace slightly declined through bridge and into Portland’s Northeast neighborhoods, my legs really started to feel the burn and the effects of the long run. In 2015, the 3:10 pacers passed me on this bridge. This year, I held them off until mile 23. I had to consume a couple of gels to help me get me through the last 10k, but I triumphantly finished in 3:11:34, about 1 minute faster than my 2015 time.
Official split times for my race:
5km: 22:21 – Pace 7:12
10km: 43:42 – Pace 7:02
Half Marathon: 1:32:37 – Pace 7:04
17.5mi: 2:05:51 – Pace 7:12
20mi: 2:23:36 – Pace 7:11
26.2mi: 3:11:34 – Pace 7:19
I obviously slowed a lot the last 10k (48 minutes) to 7:44 pace. I wouldn’t say that I “hit the wall,” but my legs were definitely very tired the last few miles.
Post Race Recovery
Recovery takes two forms: There’s the immediate actions taken right after the race and that same day, then there’s the recovery process for the next 2 weeks after the race. It’s important to realize that muscles will take a while to heal and proper recovery takes 2-3 weeks, depending on soreness. Even if you don’t feel sore a few days after the race, it’s important to continue a recovery process that includes time off, low mileage or easy running and proper hydration.
Immediately upon finishing the race and receiving my medal, I slowly made my way through tables full of fruit, energy drinks, bagels and other carbs/refreshments. There’s plenty of photo ops and they provided me with a cover up to keep my muscles warm. I continued to hydrate, stretch, get some dry clothes on. Within 90 minutes of finishing the race, I was back home, enjoying a hot breakfast of pancakes, eggs and turkey sausage along with a cup of hot chocolate made with milk for added protein. Besides light stretching, more water and a hot shower, I pulled on my Bauerfeind Compression socks, put legs up and relaxed for most of the afternoon.
The key to quick recovery is consuming lots of carbohydrates and protein, hydrating, and stretching right after the race. I also wore the Bauerfeind Compression Sleeves for 3-4 hours on each of the 2 days after the race. The day after the marathon, I took an easy 2 mile walk with my dogs. Over the next 5-6 days I either walked or ran 4 miles easy miles on a treadmill.
The recovery process should continue for at least 2 weeks after the race. I don’t run more than 6-7 miles until 10 days after the race and only if I feel comfortable. Otherwise I keep the mileage low and even complete some work on the elliptical.
I’m done for the rest of the year. Any races that I participate in will be casual “fun runs” with friends at Thanksgiving or Christmas. My next race is typically at the end January when I run in the Vancouver Lake ½ Marathon. I encourage anyone to follow me on Facebook or Twitter – @MidAgeMarathoner.
I also encourage any of the runners of this series to contact me with any questions they may have about marathon training or long distance running. I specialize in coaching middle aged men and women who want to run ½ and full marathons. I can tailor personalized programs to meet an athlete’s physical abilities. This helps them meet their goals and arrive to the race, fresh, fit and ready to run.
“Middle Age Marathoner”
*This author has been offered free product in exchange for his content, including an honest review of Bauerfeind USA products.