Settle in kids, this is going to be long. Really long.
The morning kicked off very early with the Team gathering at 5:45 downtown at a hotel a few blocked from the race. There were was a lot of pre-race jitters and excitement, as well as a lot of picture taking.
At 6:30am we headed over to the start and headed our separate ways to our individual corrals. I was in corral F without any other TnTers so I was on my own. I bag checked a giant bag of clothing which I had planned on wearing at the start of the race and chucking once I got warm but it was warmer than I though it was going to be so I only wore some arm warmers and gloves. After that I got into the giant port-o-potty line. At 6:59 the announcer started talking and everyone ran to the front of the corral and suddenly the bathroom line was much shorter. The thing is, our corral wasn’t released for another 10 minutes so even though I stayed in the line and used the bathroom, I still caught up with my corral before they were anywhere close to the start line.
As I was standing the bathroom line I started chatting with a woman named Angela, who was also doing her first marathon. We compared training runs, exchanged stories, and basically kept talking to keep our minds off being nervous. We caught up with each other again as our corral starting moving towards the start line and as we crossed the start line we fell into a rhythm, chatting, taking in all the sights, and sharing our excitement about just how awesome it was.
The first few miles passed quickly, chatting with Angela made the time fly by and also ensured that I didn’t go out too fast because if I found myself unable to get a sentence out without huffing and puffing then I needed to reel it in a bit. Angela and I made our way down Natio Parkway and then headed onto Barbur Blvd. when I got a text from my mom.
I missed her in the first mile and then in her silly mom brain she figured that I had been kidnapped. You know, kidnapped in a crowd of 12,000ish runners while I was wearing one of the brightest, hardest to miss outfits. I let her know that I was still alive and that I would find her on my way back though downtown.
Side note for decorating your marathon outfit-be sure to write your name in large visible letters on the front of your shirt so that spectators can cheer for you by name. It’s surprising how much of a boost you get from it. Between the ‘go Maddy’ and ‘go team’ cheers I felt like I had thousands of friends along the race course. Angela was curious about all the ‘go team’ cheers so we talked about Team in Training for a bit and she loved all the enthusiasm.
Around mile 4 I saw my mom and gave her a big hug. She was excited to confirm that I had indeed not been kidnapped. Angela and I continued on along Natio and around mile 7 I saw my favorite running buddy Kelley, and our friends and teammates for last season Jaime and Ken.
I high fived Ken and nearly tackled Kelley when I hugged her. Kelley’s been so supportive and wonderful and getting to see her during the marathon meant so much to me, especially since she had surgery just 9 days before. Thank you so much Kelley! And thanks Ken and Jaime for taking care of her!
Around mile 8 I saw captain Laura. I started to have some knee pain at mile 6 so Laura gave me some Biofreeze to put on it. Unfortunately not soon after that it started to get pretty painful and I kept having to stop to stretch out my quad so I sent Angela on her way with the hope to be able to catch up with her later. While I would have liked to have been able to have spent the whole race with Angela I’m still so happy I got to spend the first 8 miles with her! Thanks for running with me Angela!
I ran through the Team in Training aid station right before the turn around and it was great to see so many familiar faces, thanks to everyone who volunteered! Soon after I hit the turn around on Front Ave. and was running straight into the sun. How the heck was it that sunny in Portland in October?! I continued on trying to get my knee to relax and focus on everything around me. There was some amazing musical entertainment along the course; a mariachi band, a drum line, a marching band playing Abba, and a group of pirates.
Welcome to Portland.
Things started to go downhill at this point. I became frustrated with my knee since I was only able to run more than a few minutes without having to stop. I saw captain Mike just before the full and half marathon courses split, mile 10.5ish. He put some more Biofreeze gel on my knee and gave me a hug as I shed a few frustrated tears and sent me on my way.
The course wove it’s way through Northwest Portland and around my 12 I saw my mom and Kraig again. I scared the crap out of my mom because I ran up to her crying, hugged her, told her my knee hurt, and then ran off. Sorry mom!
The course continued out Highway 30 and I was thankful for having run Hood to Coast in August which got me used to running alongside high speed traffic. I was still struggling with the frustration of not being able to settle into a comfortable running place. Every time I wold have to stop running I’d have to hold back tears. At mile 14 my TnT and HTC teammate Debi ran a few strides with me and I was so thankful for the distraction!
I continued north on Hwy. 30 and kept looking for the St. Johns bridge in the distance.
As I started up the long hill to St. Johns Bridge captain Laura was on her way down to find me. I was a bit of a mess at this point, so frustrated about the way the race was going and still facing 10 miles more of knee pain. Laura reminded me about why we were out there, for all the people who couldn’t be out there, and about the cancer patients we’re run for. I reflected on the last two years with Astraea, her journey through chemo, and how just a month ago she had her last chemo appointment. We made it to the beginning of the bridge and she sent me on my away.
I’ve been over the St. Johns Bridge a few time but I never paid attention to how hilly it is.
About halfway across the bridge my teammate Bling caught up with me and we compared our injuries, my knee and his big toe cramps. After a little while he went ahead and the course turned off the bridge and into North Portland. There was a sharp right turn that had a very steep downhill for a block and then a steep up hill for a block. The downhill was the worst and my knee was very upset with it. The course then settled onto Willamette Blvd and made it’s way through some neighborhoods with families out in their yards cheering. I caught back up with Bling around mile 18.5ish and he stuck with me when I needed to run or when I needed to walk. He got me out of my frustrated funk and I was able to stop crying and start laughing.
Around mile 19.5 Bling’s friend and TnT Tri coach joined us for a mile or so. It was a great distraction.
Bling at mile 20, don’t mind my finger in the photo, I wasn’t at my best. Also, at some point I got chocolate Gu all over my phone and it was really sticky, that’s my excuse. Around mile 21 when I needed to stop and stretch I told Bling to continue on since it seemed like he needed to keep moving. He gave me a big bear hug, seriously, he’s very tall and the top of my hear only comes up to his mid chest, and he went on his way. I kept him in my sights for awhile with the thought I might be able to catch up with him again but my knee wouldn’t let me run long enough to do that.
As I came upon the Team in Training aid station at mile 22 I was excited to see more familiar faces. As I ran through it coach Heidi asked me if I wanted her to run with me. My response, ‘PLEASE RUN WITH ME!’. At that point in the marathon some people don’t want anyone to talk to them but I needed the distraction. Coach Heidi ran alongside me and told me ‘when you want to run, we run, when you need to walk, we walk, just let me know’. We stared down the giant hill on Greely Ave. which is annoying long, steep and painful. We walked the whole way down which was frustrating but Heidi kept me distracted and moving forwarded as we talked about running, Hood to Coast, having kids, and all things in between.
The miles started to tick by. Somewhere along mile 23 we passed Widmer Brewery and there were some people outside with a ‘beer station’, which sounds great in theory but the smell of warm beer that had been spilled on the ground made me want to puke.
We continued up and over the Broadway Bridge, and the down off the bridge which was especially painful. When the road finally flattened out I could see the 25 mile marked and that’s when I started making distance deals. The first was to run to the mile marker. The next was to run a block and then walk a block, which was all my knee could take. I would tell Heidi my plan and she would be right there beside me. She kept talking to me and kept me laughing instead of crying. We made our way through Chinatown and out of nowhere popped out Gina to run with us, even in her jeans and Uggs in the blazing heat. We turned onto Natio Parway once again and sometimes we ran 2 blocks and then walked a block, sometimes we ran one.
Right before the turn onto Salmon St. I saw my mom, Kraig, Jen, and Jenny cheering me on. All I could do was wave since I just had to keep moving forward. Coach Wendy and Mike were there as well and they started running with me too.
Yes, if you were wondering, Heidi and I got many comments on our sparkly skirts, they were a big hit.
Normally they don’t let anyone into the final chute if they don’t have a bib on but Heidi, Wendy, and Mike decided to ignore that since it was so late in the race and stayed with as we made the turn into Salmon. Right before the turn I asked them how close the finish was and they told me 2 blocks up and one block over, and I decided that once we made the turn onto Salmon there would be no more walking. I wanted to finish as strong as I could so I started to pick it up and Mike commented on it and I made a joke about throwing up, which came back to bite me in the ass. I saw my wonderful roommates Jenni and Ryan cheering me on and Jenni made a fabulous sign which I couldn’t fully read as I was running but enjoyed reading it later.
We made the final turn onto 3rd Ave. where Sam was, I waved to him and then made it across the finish line with my Heidi, Wendy, and Mike surrounding me and I couldn’t have been happier. Then just as Mike went to hug me from my left side I had to turn to my right and throw up. Yep, that’s right, I literally threw up at the finish. Heidi made sure that people gave me some space while Mike and Wendy found me some water and after a few moments I regained my composure enough to stumble over to medical tent to get some ice for my knee. I gave Heidi, Wendy, and Mike hugs and they headed back to the Team in Training tent.
After getting some ice taped to my knee I then slowly stumbled my way through the finishers chute where I got a bunch of stuff handed to me, a medal, a shirt, a rose, a coin, a pendent, a space blanket and a tree sapling, but not a bag, which would have been helpful. I chugged some chocolate milk, got my picture take with my arms full of stuff and then slowly made my way to the Team in Training tent to check out and find my friends and family. Pictures were taken, stories were exchanged, I got to finally sit down and take it all in.
Jenni’s awesome sign.
Since this is getting ridiculously long I will leave off here but I can’t thank everyone enough. All the people who came to cheer, everyone who donated to my fundraising, each person who listened to me complain about how tired I was during training, you mean so much to me, more than I can ever express.
In terms of the actual race, no, I didn’t have the race I planned to or thought I was going to have. It took me an hour and fifteen minutes longer than my goal but looking back on it, I wouldn’t change it. I fought through it, I didn’t quit, I got to experience more love and support from my friends, family, and teammates than I thought was possible. The memories that stick out the most for me are the miles when I was running with someone. From the first few miles with my new friend Angela, to running with and laughing with Bling, to the last 4 miles with Heidi when there was a lot more walking than running, to running the finishers chute surrounded by so much Team in Training love, I wouldn’t change any of it.
Damn it, now I’m crying again.