Portland Marathon, October 7, 2007

I ran the Portland Marathon as part of my Team in Traning training, as described on my TNT workout log. It was my first marathon and I am really proud of my accomplishment, as well as being impressed by the quality and effectiveness of the Team in Traning coaches and program. This page is a summary of my experiences with a few photos. (I hope to get some of the official race photos to add later.)

Saturday, October 6

start running
Jocularity at the starting line (with Kathy, photo courtesy Erin H.) Mile 5 (with stuffed pockets, not massive thighs)

Nancy and I flew up to Portland on a group flight arranged by TNT. I think there were about a dozen runners from my local team, but when spouses and runners from other Bay Area teams were added, there were probably 35-40 of us. It seemed like the total TNT presence at the hotel was over 200! We checked into the Marriott Hotel at the riverfront and had the afternoon off to pick up our race packets and visit the race expo, primarily vendors wanting to sell us running clothing and equipment. That night we had a TNT Pasta Party in the hotel and heard some great motivational speeches about the reasons for which we were running. There was also a lady who recited a humorous poem, based loosely on "The Night before Christmas," about the details of the race. She had me all hyped up about the challenging "Harrison Street Hill" early in the course. My big concern for the night was not the race, per se, but the weather forecast -- I had never run in the rain (one of the quirks of training in the Bay Area in a dry year) and the forecasts alternated from showers to rain.

Sunday, October 7

bridge finish
On St Johns bridge, Mile 18+ Over the finish line

Race Day! After a surprisingly good night's sleep, I joined our team at 6 a.m. for some last-minute instructions and words of encouragement. Our hotel was about four blocks from the start and finish line, super convenient. To my delight, the weather forecast changed overnight to mostly cloudy and that is what we got. The weather was simply perfect for running, overcast and cool, no more than 60°F.

The course was excellent in many regards. There was only one significant hill and the last third was very, very slightly downhill. There were times of very nice scenic views and a lot of time in neighborhoods where the residents came out in droves to cheer us on. Since many of us had our names on our racing bibs, I was pleased to hear frequent yells encouraging me by name, like "Looking good, Hal" or "Come on, Hal, you're almost through." There were 40 musical acts spread out along the course, and although I was expecting most of them to be amateurish garage bands, I was pleased to find that they represented many different styles of music, including marching bands, jazz, swing, country, Dixieland, folk, and rock. There was a band consisting entirely of bells and another of xylophones. There was a harpist and an accordion player who must have been 90 years old. Squads of cheerleaders with their pom-poms were everywhere. Also ubiquitous were the aid stations. I think there were at least 13 of them, handing out water, Ultima, glucose, gummy bears, and packages of honey. (There was one station handing out Red Bull, but I decided not to risk that.) All in all, everything was very well organized. We later heard in sorrow about how screwed up the Chicago Marathon was the same day and felt lucky to be in Portland.


I was very pleased with my running performance overall. I finished the race without any injury and crossed the finish line running. For the first 17 miles I kept at a very steady 12 minute/mile pace (5 mph), using my training ratio of four minutes of running followed by one minute of walking. This included the dreaded Harrison Street Hill, which turned out to be almost insignificant -- about three blocks long in a gradual slope, nothing in comparison to training runs I've had in San Francisco and Woodside. Around mile 17, however, we encountered a very long and steep hill that ascended to the St. Johns Bridge, a suspension span high over the river. (Despite a tradition, I did not attempt to spit off the bridge. It was very windy and anything I expelled would have returned to my face!)

By mile 19, I started running into "the wall," in which my energy dropped drastically and I almost had to will myself into taking each step. Fortunately, the course was either flat or slightly downhill from this point on. But still, my pace plummeted, probably down to the 14-15 minute range. (One of my only annoyances of the race was that my Timex GPS watch was not able to get a fix on sufficient satellites that far north, apparently, so I wasn't able to keep track of my pace electronically. Good thing the course was marked diligently for each mile. The other annoyance was that I forgot to bring my camera, because I could've taken a number of scenic shots of the race.) Coach Granger of my local TNT team found me during this section and ran with me about a quarter-mile, which helped a lot.

At around mile 24, I came upon a terrible accident scene. Some poor bicyclist had collided with a light rail car and was caught underneath. About half a dozen fire engines surrounded the scene and they were trying to extract the guy. I later found out he had some broken bones, but had survived the accident.

By the time I passed mile 25, I somehow got my second wind. Psychology obviously had something to do with it, but perhaps one of those honey packets got into my bloodstream just at the right time. (I had a really delicious one with a banana flavored honey.) I crossed the Steel Bridge and returned to downtown Portland. Nancy spotted me about three blocks before the finish line and I put on an extra burst of speed just before I crossed. (I apparently look impressive when I take a very long stride and I heard a few gasps in the crowd as I went by. Little did they know that I can do that for a block or two at the most.)

blanket watch bed
In my space blanket My finicky Timex GPS Ready for bed at 1pm!

I had predicted I would finish the race in five hours 30 minutes, based on my assumption that I could start at a 12 minute mile and would taper off a bit. My actual finish time, measured by the electronic chip on my shoe, not the time after the starting gun, was 5:30:07! In the photo shown here, you can see my watch had a slightly different reckoning. I had been concerned during the race that some walkers were going faster than I was, which I consider to be rather embarrassing, but I was happy to see from the race results that there were only five walkers who crossed the finish line before I did. I talked with some of the people wearing the red colored racing bibs, which indicated those who were registered to walk rather than run, and they all told me that they planned to run part of the way. (I also saw that the top wheelchair racer finished in 1:45, which is simply phenomenal, 40 minutes ahead of the fastest runner.)

All sorts of goodies came after the finish line: a medal, space blanket, cookies, fruit cups, bagels, fruit, orange juice, a rose (Portland styles itself the Rose City), and a young tree sapling that we were supposed to take home and plant in remembrance. We went back to the hotel and I attempted to take an ice bath, but many of the faster runners had already arrived and hogged most of the ice from the hotel machines. So it was more of a cold tap water bath. I did feel pretty good for the rest of the day, including the big TNT victory party at 6 p.m. A lot of the younger people stayed until 9 p.m. and danced, but that was too much for me.

Monday, October 8

Well, despite feeling pretty darn good Sunday afternoon and evening, I woke up with pain in my left knee, which I suspected was my IT band acting up. I spent the morning in Portland hobbling around, walking off the pain, and visiting Powell's bookstore, which is always an outstanding experience. When we took the bus back to the airport, everybody was laughing about how you could tell who had run the marathon by the manner in which they were walking around the airport. At home, I iced up the knee.

Tuesday, October 9

I awoke to good news: despite general mild aches and muscle stiffness, my knee pain has pretty much gone away. I'm ready for another track workout with TNT tonight. I hope they take it a little easy on us, however.

The marathon was an awesome experience for me. I intend to do more in the future, some with TNT, some on my own.

Course Map
Right-click to view small images
Course Topography Hal's Results