Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Running with Legends at the Eugene Marathon

On Sunday, I had the honor of joining 5,500 runners for the recently reincarnated Eugene Marathon/Half Marathon in my hometown of Eugene, OR. Many came to “race in the footsteps of legends” of Eugene track and running stars like Steve Prefontaine, Alberto Salazar, Marla Runyan, and Mary Decker Slaney. For me, it was a chance to do some speed work up and down memory lane and join my father in our first marathon together.

My Dad, Dr. Larry Dunlap, had run a few marathons back in the 70’s. In fact, his last marathon was the former Eugene Marathon (then called the Nike Marathon) over 30 years ago! Just long enough to forget his dehydration-cursed experience and sign up for another. I thought for sure he would come to his senses and kick down to the also-challenging half marathon, but come race day he was ready to take on the full 26.2, complete with some new eating and hydration strategies. I offered to run with him, but he preferred a solo attempt. I threw in an incentive and offered to fly him to Boston should he beat the 65-69 age group qualifying time of 4 hours and 15 minutes, but he was wisely focused on finishing with grace and no staple-gunned-to-the-toilet episodes on his home turf.

(Two classic Eugene characters)

(Thousands fill up Agate St.)

My goal for this race was to do some speed work. I figured I would start out at an aggressive pace just under my anaerobic threshold (around 160 bps) and see how long I could keep my form (which is usually about 10-12 miles), then slow down to retain my legs for the upcoming Quicksilver 50m. This is the first year that I’ve been serious about speed and tempo work, so I was curious to see if there would be any proof in the pudding. Lord knows those sessions hurt the most. If there’s no proof in the pudding, I’m going back to just eating the pudding. ;-)

We gathered outside of Hayward Field for the start around 7am, and the memories already started rolling. I recalled watching the Prefontaine Classic as a young boy, doing endless stair workouts in the grandstands with my high school ski team, and falling asleep in the field while pretending to study during my college years at the University of Oregon. Yep, I’ve spent some time in this town! The historic Hayward Field has never looked so good, thanks to recent upgrades to host the Olympic Trials in a few weeks. Perhaps a few more local names will join the list of Eugene legends.

My early morning breakfast of oatmeal, Vespa, OptygenHP, and Kaboom Energy Drink hit the spot and had my legs jumping, so I only packed a few more gels for the race. The early morning was a chilly 48 degrees, but we knew it would warm up so I opted for a tank top and sleeves (oh so sexy). I found my way up to the 6:30/mile pace group among the 1,700 marathon starters and snapped a few pics before local hero/US Olympic Marathon team runner Dathan Ritzenhein sent us off.

(Lining up with the gazelles up front, Hayward Field in the background)

The crowds were awesome right out of the gate, cheering on every corner and ringing their cowbells. What a great running town! I didn’t stress too much about my pace this early and just tried to keep up with all the gazelles around me. My mind was easily preoccupied with rekindled memories at every corner. The house where the Women’s college rugby team lived (easily the best college parties in town), the church where my boy scout troop would meet, the soccer field where I lost my virginity (ha, ha, just kidding). So many distant memories that feel like yesterday…memory lane has a weird way of making you feel young and old at the same time.

Each mile marker on the course had the name of one of the Eugene running legends, which usually sparked a conversation among the runners. When we passed Marla Runyan (mile 4), I glanced at my watch for the first time and we were just under 25 minutes. Whoa! I definitely found a fast pack of runners. But my heart rate was still in the right zone, so I kept cruising along.

(Cruising down Hilyard St.)

The turn at Kathy Hayes (mile 5) brought a chilly headwind, so four of us took turns working as a pack the best we could. I could pick out the track runners among the group, for they got faster every time we hit a corner. We shared some verbal encouragement with the masses headed in the other direction before jumping on a bike path and working towards Amazon Park (where I drank my first beer, natch). I was keeping an eye out for Bobby Lee, a college friend who was taking on the Eugene Marathon for the second time. Bobby had found out last year that when you spend 5-6 hours in a race, you get mighty hungry. This year he asked Christi to bring some chicken wings out near the halfway point (she overcame her vegetarian gag reflex enough to have a bucket ready at mile 17).

The crowd near Bill McChesney Jr (mile 7) was at least a hundred people, putting on a great show of support as we rounded South Eugene High (my alma mater 21 years ago…gulp!). As we headed up into the hills again, we passed the leading group of women who were all within a minute of each other. I stuck close to Tim Knox, a 48-year-old member of Portland’s Red Lizard Racing Team, who set a solid pace up and down the hill and into the UofO campus. Tim kept checking his watch and saying “this is awfully fast”, sharing with me that his marathon PR was 2:48. He asked what my goal was, and I said a 2:55 would be nice so that I could get a guaranteed entry into the NYC marathon. He just laughed and said “you can start walking now”.

(Tim takes us over the footbridge, one of three river crossings)

I didn’t quite get the joke until we hit mile 10 in 1:02:11. Holy cow, this was fast for me! Tim passed the spot where he had cramped the previous year (and had to drop) and picked up the pace with his renewed confidence. I just stuck with him, trading off the lead as we ran in the focused silence of our pace.

(Rejoining the half marathoners on the bike path)

We entered Springfield, where Tim got a water bottle from his wife and the “look of confidence” that renewed Tim’s faith that he must be doing fine. We hit the halfway point in 1:21 and change, and turned onto the rolling river bike path that would be the terrain for the remainder of the run. Tim had a big smile on his face…”new half marathon PR”. Sweet! Either that, or we both rooked it big time.

(The open stretch to Springfield)

As we ran past Alton Baker Park (where I used to jump my BMX bike into the man-made lake…don’t laugh, BMX is an Olympic sport now!) and the McMenamin’s Mile (mile 17), we finally started pulling in 50-year-old Joe Sheeran whom we had been chasing for miles. Joe is like Tim, an impossibly fit Masters runner, and he was glad to have some company. He said he hadn’t seen anyone in nearly six miles! We all ran together for about a mile before Tim surged again, and I stuck with him.

(Another pic of the back of Tim's head...a common theme for the day!)

At this point, I wasn’t doing my fair share of pulling from the front of our pack of two. Tim was really running strong, and even a new headwind didn’t slow him down much. I kept focusing on my form and keeping my turnover going as fast as I could. At Cathie Twomey Bellamy (mile 20), I let myself check my watch again….2:04:28. I had to do the math in my head a few times to figure out we were on a 2:42 pace. I checked with Tim, and he confirmed – we were killing it!

(Sorry for the blurry picture, but take a look at these guys!)

We crossed the bridge and started heading back, and at Maria Mutola (mile 22) I began battling a side stitch and hamstrings that were burning like hot lava. I could push hard to the end, but I wanted to stick to my training goal and save something for next weekend. 22 miles at this pace, wow! I eased up to 7:00/mile and walked a few steps at the remaining aid stations to get in lots of water, while Tim pressed on at full speed. I still managed to catch a few runners on the last section, but a few caught me as well. I crossed the finish line in 2:47:22, good enough for 21st place. Ten minutes off my marathon PR, and I felt great at the finish. I think I can officially say that the training is paying off. ;-)

(Scott joins the sub-2:50 club)

Tim had finished in 2:44, winning the Masters division and setting a new PR. I thanked him for his help as we watched Joe finish right behind me in 2:47. I got some food, changed my clothes, and targeted 4 hours to go back and watch for my Dad. By the time we got back, we missed him…because he finished in 3:48!!! That's a 2:55 when WAVA age-adjusted. What a rock star! When I told him he was ready for Boston, he said “I don’t have to run another one, do I?”. Spoken like a champ who gave it his all. Bobby Lee also came in strong at 4:59 (a new PR), and he didn’t even need the chicken wings.

(Posing with my Dad, the real rock star of the day)

We snapped a few pics and hit the beer garden for a pint of the Eugene Marathon Ale brewed up by McMenamins. My Dad must be doing just fine if he can take down a beer! We caught up with local Erik Petersen and his friend Lonn Robertson, who both had stellar races and would be heading to Boston in ’09. In general, that’s the theme we were hearing – wonderful weather, a great course, and awesome spectators had pulled many to personal records. As I sipped my beer, I tried to piece together what went right today (it's so much easier to figure out what went wrong, eh?). Good aerobic base, faith in my speedwork, knowledge of the course, great weather, and the speedy Tim Knox whom I was lucky enough to pace with on a breakout day of his own. Gotta be happy with that.

(Ah...brewskies!)

(Tasting the McMenamins Eugene Marathon Ale)

My thanks to the volunteers and Race Directors who put on a spectacular race. I can chalk up one more fond memory of Eugene, and this one will certainly make me feel younger. Next up, the Quicksilver 50m…

- SD

31 comments:

  1. I got an e-mail already asking what my speed work entailed. Not a whole lot really - one track session per week alternating 6-8 x 800 at 2:45 (the dreaded Yasso 800 drill) and 5-6 x 1 mile at 5:50. I also started doing two tempo runs per week, fitting 1-4 mile stretches at 6-6:30 min/mile in the middle of a 6-8 mile run.

    Also on a side note, I won't be able to make the WS Training Run on Memorial Day wknd. I will be in Santa Barbara with family, and it was too much to try and fit in. I hope you all have a great time!

    SD

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  2. You just motivated me to do more speed work! Thank you!!

    I also had to laugh out loud (LOL as the kids would say) at your virginity joke. that was funny!

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  3. What a great time spent in your old stomping grounds with your dad. Sweet deal. Congratulations on your 2:47 marathon, wow! Good to know nothing serious developed from the twisted ankle at Mt. Diablo, only reason I got within sight of you.

    See you at Quicksilver this weekend. Promises to be another good day of running.

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  4. Great job Scott, very impressive. Hope to see you soon.

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  5. Wow! Nice job, Scott. I would definitely say that speed work is paying off. However, it also appears that you have some pretty fast genetics as well. Big congrats to your dad!

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  6. Hey Scott,

    I think one of the big reasons for the PR is doing the speed work in combination with a final long, and most importantly, fun training run at Boston 3 weeks ago. You've proven that you if throw in some goofy easy long runs, the body is recovered and relaxed to jam it when you want to. Remember, the ultimate goal is to take down Anton, Meltzer and others at WS! Wear some more Bleeker outfits until then!

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  7. other great read! thanks for sharing that experience, scott.

    i really wanted to do this race but couldn't because of conflicts with my school schedule.

    good luck at quicksilver

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  8. Scott,

    You might have to actually put the camera down and set a really ambitious goal for one of these runs, just to see what you're capable of. Very impressive. BTW, three speed sessions a week is more than "Not a whole lot, really"!

    Nice job,
    -Jasper

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  9. Congrats on a great run Scott. Amazing.

    Any changes in your recovery now that you've added speed work? Any changes overall that you are doing by adding the speed workouts?

    Eugene looks like a fun marathon. Would you recommend it to others? How were those bike paths? soft or hard?

    Thanks for the great blog. Really enjoy reading what you have to write.

    Good luck at WS!!

    Chuck

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  10. Great run at Eugene. Gotta be nice to turn off the engines at the end and still clock 2:47. On an unrelated note check out these guys,they can run practically forever!
    http://iditarodblogs.com/news/2008/05/07/researchers-seek-to-demystify-the-metabolic-magic-of-sled-dogs/#more-449

    Jamie H
    loyalisaac@yahoo.com

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  11. Holy Crap Scott! I found your blog linked off Runners World. Awesome job from another Axe-Alumni. I was there too, but had been recovering from IT Band problems. It was just a "training run" for me.

    http://axemen86.blogspot.com/

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  12. I'm blown away, Scott, congratulations! Also to your dad.

    I used to do those Yasso runs, but could never keep them below 2:55. Am I supposed to think I can do the same (training like that, or marathoning 2:47)? I doubt it, but maybe I'm just being....chicken...or lazy. So you've definitely earned permission to dust me at Quicksilver!

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  13. I should clarify on my speed work:

    6-8 x 800 with a TARGET of 2:45. Rounds #5-8 tend to add 5-15 seconds. I take a day off afterwards, since it usually hurts like a MF.

    Also, I added this speedwork gradually, starting with 1 per week in March, 2 in April, now 3 in May. This was after four months of pure aerobic stuff.

    Charlie & Eudemus - Good points that genetics and that LS run at Boston may also be a factor! You guys know my training better than I do.

    And yes, I am a bit more sore than usual. Hopefully will be ready for QS...

    SD

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  14. Now you can say "Faster than Lance Armstrong....... that is when he is off the bike"
    Congrads!

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  15. Lance still has a marathon PR a minute faster, so I can't brag yet...

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  16. Yeah, but watch out if Lance starts logging the miles you do.

    A great accomplishment nontheless. Well done.

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  17. Ditto, what Jasper said. At TRT last year (for the 2 hours that I stupidly ran with him), he and I talked about what would happen if you ever raced without your camera. I see a sub-2:40!

    Also, I know of at least one Fleet Feet Bend employer (who will remain anonymous) who you have inspired to get off his lazy butt and train so he can throw-down a sub-2:50.

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  18. Great coverage of the Eugene Marathon, Scott. Good meeting you and your dad after the race. Sure was a perfect day. We'll see you down the trail, or at Boston 2009 - Erik Petersen, Eugene OR

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  19. Great post, Scott. I love to read stories about parents and their adult kids still doing cool stuff together. On the topic of speed work, this past Wednesday morning real early at our local high school track I did my first track workout in many years with a buddy who's training for his second Ironman. I'm a former 2:56 PR marathoner from decades ago and was able to hang with him (I'm 51 and he's in his early 40s) as he grilled me through 14 - count 'em - 14 quarters at a 90 second, or 6 minute per mile pace. We did a very slow 220 recovery between each lap.

    So for readers who are older and wiser (okay, slower) runners like me, getting back on the track at even a slower-than-Scott-Dunlap pace gets the heart rate soaring and wakes up those fast-twitch muscles. If you're like me, afterward, you'll feel an almost spiritual accomplishment.

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  20. Congrats on a great race. Really great coverage, takes me back to the days I used to race. Someday..

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  21. Curios to find out more about Yasso 880 drills, I found this-
    http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-244-255-624-0,00.html

    They look interesting!

    Good job, Scott!

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  22. Another exclamation mark on an already fine year...impressive.

    Great recap as always.

    Will G.

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  23. Jasper & Sean - Put down the camera?!? Blasphemy! Kidding aside, I probably should try at least one. Maybe an unscenic course so I'm not tempted. Sean, you definitely have a sub-2:50 (probably sub-2:40) in your future. Go 1:22 in the first half, and you'll have plenty left.

    Tanaka - I'm surprised about your 800 pace, because I swear I've seen you split a 50-miler under 3 hours on many occasions. You gotta have serious leg speed for that. I'm sure you will have no worries at QS - I'm still feeling Eugene, and it's tomorrow!

    Jim - 14 x 400!!!! You are a madman. That's a lot of sprint work for any age.

    Another training note I thought I should add - during my speed phase, my recovery days increase to about one every 3-4 days instead of one every 6-7 days. No scientific method, just flat out exhausted more often. ;-)

    SD

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  24. Erik - Sorry I got your name wrong! Congrats on the very consistent run...3:27! You're going to have a great time in Boston.

    SD

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  25. Scott - does your dad need any encouragement (unrelenting arm-twisting etc.) to go to Boston next year? He seems like such a great guy. I hope he won't mind if we contact him and see if we can horn in on some training runs with him.

    Great write-up about Eugene. Thanks. I love having people was poetic about my hometown - even when the poets are homies also.

    BTW, the Twilight Meet at Hayward tonight was pretty spectacular - just like when I was a kid sitting up in the old green, cedar benches watching Ryan, Salazar, Prefontaine, and the rest of the gang. Although, I don't think we ever had a Presidential contender interrupt the meet when I was a little kid. It was pretty fun for everyone (especially Vin L.) to have Barrack there.

    Best wishes for QS - glad its you and not me. Lonn

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  26. Can I say this here??? Holy shit! Congratulations on your new PR. WOW!!! I think I need to do more ultra marathon running because maybe it will make me as fast a marathoner as you... someday. Very impressive, Scott!

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  27. P.S. How many miles do you average per week, while in training? And how many miles do you peak at? Thanks!

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  28. I'm sure it is against some blogging/comment rule to go totally off-track during a thread, but I read a quote this morning that I just had to share. Scott (being the apple) doesn't fall far from the tree (you need to read to the end):

    This from NPR:

    The Lane County Budget Committee took a hard look at public health, mental health and emergency services last [Thursday] night. All these departments are facing serious funding cuts in the no-federal-timber-payment-renewal budget.

    Jes Burns has more.

    Reporter:

    While cuts to emergency services would be largely noticed during county emergencies, the effect of cutting mental and public health services would have long-term implications.

    Public health is looking at a 600-thousand dollar cut. This would mean the agency would not offer off-sight flu clinics, T-B testing in homeless shelters, and Hepatitis C testing. It would also trigger 30 percent reduction in general immunizations, and an end to the prenatal care. During public comment, physician Larry Dunlap gave what could become Public health’s new catch phrase.

    “In my opinion jails cure almost no one, potholes only slow us down, and in spite of our love of animals, most of us eat them every day. Community health pays dividends for generations.”

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  29. Scott - congrats on the PR - awesome time. Sorry i missed you at the reunion a couple weekends back - were you there? I'm trying to get back into running after a bit of a break, thanks for the additional inspiration!

    -c.george

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  30. Nope, I was in Eugene GOING FAST! I had a family reunion of sorts, so I couldn't make the GSB thang. Let me know if you want to do a run sometime - would love the company!

    SD

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